Russian islands under 'mass invasion' of polar bears

Alarm sounded as polar bears'invade Russian Arctic archipelago

Alarm sounded as polar bears'invade Russian Arctic archipelago

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

The Novaya Zemlya archipelago in Russia's far north declared an emergency situation on Saturday, following weeks of "invasion" from belligerent polar bears.

With Arctic sea ice diminishing as a result of climate change, polar bears are forced to change their hunting habits and spend more time on land looking for food - which potentially puts them in conflict with humans.

They are recognised as an endangered species in Russian Federation and hunting them is banned.

Russian Federation has air force and air defence troops based on Novaya Zemlya.

Head of Novay Zemlya Zhigansha Musin has said that the regime of emergency will be in place until the security of the settlements will be provided.

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Since December, 52 polar bears have regularly visited the archipelago's main settlement, Belushya Guba, with some displaying "aggressive behaviour", local official Alexander Minayev said in a report to regional authorities. There were cases of wild animals' aggression when they attacked people and entered residential buildings and offices.

"I've been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983", he said in an official press release. "Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten", says the statement.

Russia's remote archipelago of Novaya Zemlya is situated in the extreme northeast of the country's European part and has a population of only slightly over 2,000 people.

The polar bears, having become convinced they are safe, no longer react to light and noise signals or attempts to drive them away with patrol cars and dogs.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

In January, a defence ministry official said that hundreds of disused military buildings had been demolished on Novaya Zemlya because polar bears were settling inside them.

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