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  • FILE PHOTO: File photo of a polar bear keeping close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

    FILE PHOTO: File photo of a polar bear keeping close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 February 2019

Polar bear migration is a natural phenomenon as winter and cold creep south, but these migrations are going to places they never gone before.

Melting ice and a loss of habitat is forcing polar bears, once limited to the northern Arctic pole, to flee in search of food into the Russian town of Belushya Guba, forcing the town to declare a state of emergency.

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More than 50 hungry polar bears were spotted throughout the Russian town foraging for food among trash heaps and walking around playgrounds.

Polar bears generally live on sea ice much farther north, but have recently been crossing the distance of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago as a result of diminished habitat and food sources. 30 percent of sea ice in the Arctic has diminished since 1979, a situation which will likely worsen as global temperatures rise, especially since 2018 was officially recorded as the fourth warmest year on record.

Polar bear migration is a natural phenomenon as winter and cold creep south, but these migrations are going to places they never gone before, seemingly as a result of the desperate conditions polar bears are facing.

Russian officials have declared a state of emergency because “people are afraid of leaving their homes and parents are scared of letting their children go to school alone,” since the town has been suffering “an invasion by dangerous mammals.”

Polar bears are protected under Russian law and are also listed an endangered species by animal advocacy groups. According to WWF, polar bears depend on sea ice for living, breeding, eating, and hunting.

At the moment, officials are trying to remove the polar bears from the town using trucks and dogs to scare them off.


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