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An Invasion of…Polar Bears?

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An Invasion of…Polar Bears?

(Photo courtesy of Google.)

(Photo courtesy of Google.)

(Photo courtesy of Google.)

(Photo courtesy of Google.)

McKenzie Reh, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Have you ever dreamed about seeing polar bears right outside your house? If you have, your dream may be coming true if you live in Russia.
A total of about 52 polar bears invaded a little Russian settlement with a total of about 2,429 people called Belushya Guba located on the Novaya Zemlya Soviet nuclear testing archipelago (chain, cluster, or collection of islands) in the Arctic Ocean. According to Zhigansha Musin, a local administrative head, there has never been this amount of polar bears in this area before.
The bears traveled from the Barents Sea sub-population, which is 200 miles away from Novaya Zemlya and first arrived in December.
Ever since then they had been reported as being aggressive. Claims had been made that the bears attacked people and entered buildings.
In response to these aggressive attacks, the town put up extra fencing around schools and had made services available for the town’s residents to be driven to and from work, school, and child care. This caused the people to be frightened to leave their houses.
While this situation posed a danger to the people of the town, it also posed a danger to the polar bears because they had to resort to picking through garbage for food and safety so they didn’t starve.
One explanation to this invasion is that the town has a trash dump on the outskirt of the village and this could have attracted the bears while on their migration for food. This occurrence is most likely linked to global warming and climate change because the melting sea ice causes a decline in the bears’ feeding grounds, which causes them to spend more time on land in search of food.
Polar bears need over 12,000 calories a day and their diet relies heavily on ringed seals that live at the ice edge whose population is decreasing with the melting glaciers.
The bears get two-thirds of the energy they need for the entire year from eating the ringed seals in late spring and early summer.
In addition to changing the bears’ eating habits, it has also been predicted that in future years, climate change may affect the female bears’ reproductive capacities because the decrease in their food supply will cause the females to have less of their cubs survive and the cubs that do survive will be smaller than normal.
According to the Associated Press, the Barents Sea has experienced some of the greatest impacts of climate change. This influx of polar bears caused the governor of Novaya Zemlya to declare a state of emergency on Saturday February 9 and it was lifted on Tuesday February 19.
Potential solutions to this growing problem were established. Russia had placed polar bears on the endangered species list so they tried to come up with solutions that didn’t involve killing the bears.
According to the Associated Press, The Russian National Nature Resources Agency sent a team to Novaya Zemlya in order to help get the bears out of Belushya Guba safely after their attempt to scare off the bears with patrol car sirens and dogs failed.
This team was composed of professionals who were fully equipped with the tools and training necessary to sedate and relocate the bears. Russia was hopeful that this team would be successful in its endeavor to move the bears, but if they had failed, culling (reduction of a wild animal population by selective slaughter) would have been considered as an option. Luckily, it didn’t come to that.
According to TASS, Musin said, “round-the-clock patrolling and monitoring, as well as control over the dump sites” were established to reduce the amount of bears in the region. Starting on Tuesday February 12, the number of polar bears decreased to 20 and continually decreased until there were no more left.
According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are about 25,000 polar bears worldwide and it has been predicted by the U.S Geological Survey that the thinning sea ice could cause two-thirds of the global polar bear population to be wiped out entirely by 2050 if measures aren’t taken to reduce climate change.
According to the New York Times, the United States and Russia are the two main allies trying to gain more protection for the polar bears.
The proposal that the United States and Russia are working towards is to protect the bears from hunting and banning the trade of skin, fur, and anything that can be made from the bears.
“It really seems that both countries were willing to put aside their differences in order to work together in order to save the polar bear,” said Jeffrey Flocken, The North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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