A small town in northern Russia is trying to fend off an invasion of polar bears. It's proving difficult as the bears are adjusting to human life.
Every year, settlements in northern Russia have been having to deal with polar bears coming to their town. The animals rummage through the human garbage, and eat our calorie dense food. Once they get used to it, it's difficult to get them to leave.
The town often gets a few bears as the arctic ice shelf reaches the northern border of Russia. However, more and more have been sighted in recent years.
This year, Belushya Guba has been handling an estimated 52 polar bears.
While the bears weren't exactly searching for food, a variety of factors move them south, bringing them into conflict over human garbage.
Climate change makes the arctic shelf they cross shrink sooner in the year than the animals are used to. It also creates new sea ice environments in new locations, making it difficult to continuously track the bears.
The bears being in new, unfamiliar areas with less ice makes it difficult to hunt. They start scavenging for anything they can find, and seem to particularly enjoy human garbage.
Since the bears are spending more and more time around human settlements, efforts to peacefully repel them have proven less effective than in the past. Officials declared a state of emergency in the small town, allowing military personnel to patrol the area, but many bears have grown used to the loud noises the vehicles make, and the bright lights shone on them.
People started to worry the Russian government would authorize a cull to protect their citizens.
Russia, however, vowed to not kill the polar bears. Instead, they are planning on sedating the creatures and moving them away from the town.
Rosprirodnadzor, the Russian nature conservation agency, is sending a team to take the bears out of the settlement. The operation will begin sometime after they arrive Tuesday.
The bears being in the area in the first place has brought criticism on the Russian Defense Ministry.
Mikhail Stishov, a WWF coordinator for Arctic biodiversity projects, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying,
"Everyone knew this might happen. There are many more polar bears on shores because of lengthy absence of ice.
"They come to the shore, attracted by human settlements which they specially like when the rubbish disposal system is not set up properly."
Despite this, the Defense Ministry had banned WWF experts from the area, due to the military presence.
Other criticisms abound online in the form of climate change deniers, who are trying to spin this story into proof the scientific consensus is wrong.
Time will tell if the plan to relocate the bears works, or if they just come back to the town. In the mean time, residents are living in fear, and having their daily lives scattered by the acts of some hungry polar bears.