Polar Bear Migration Leads to State of Emergency in Russian Towns

Bear-ly any food left in the Arctic.

Griffin Sonnemann-Creed, Editor of Features & Extras

It is not uncommon to hear about annual animal migrations. Many species of birds, insects, and other creatures undergo annual migrations, oftentimes following the changing seasons and climates. However, recent movements have included a species not particularly well known for its migratory habits – the polar bear.

Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago in the far north of the Russian Federation, is not a particularly hospitable area to live in. The region is mostly known for its military bases and as the site of former nuclear tests, including the infamous Tsar Bomba. Yet the region boasts a small population of about 2,500 people, according to the Washington Post. However, as of recent weeks, the populace of this small archipelago have been under siege by an attacking group of polar bears looking for food.

In an official statement following the incident, local regional administrator Alexander Minayev informed the public that the bears had indeed attacked several citizens, and were even entering evacuated homes in search of food, according to CNN. Minayev has also declared a state of emergency in the town, with residents being protected by military forces and being transported with Russian armored personnel carriers.

Liz Greengrass, the director of the UK-based animal conservation organization Born Free Foundation, believes the invasion has to do with recent climate change and the deterioration of living conditions in the Arctic circle, especially due to the melting ice caps. She stated, “Polar bears are reliant on seals for food and seals rely on sea ice. Global warming is melting the ice so it has a chain reaction on how polar bears can survive,” in a 2018 interview with CNN. Due to this, the number of polar bear encounters with humans has steadily increased in recent years.

Russian reaction has been disorganized and unsure of what to do. The government’s environmental agency has not given the military license to kill the invading animals, due to their status as an endangered species. An official team of experts have been sent to guarantee the safety of the island’s inhabitants and to attempt to prevent the bears from encroaching any further, but a culling of the population is not out of the question. One can only hope the Russians can resolve this without further bloodshed.