As the earth warms, polar bear populations are sadly declining. Strangely enough, though, one village in Russia is actually being overrun by polar bears.
Almost 60 polar bears were spotted looking for food near the village of Ryrkaypiy in far east Russia, CNN reports. The bears, most of them looking starved, are feeding on walrus carcasses on the village’s shores. Males, females, and cubs have all been spotted.
This is a marked increase from previous years, when it was rare to spot more than three to five polar bears at a time. Experts attribute the sudden increase to climate change – as warmer temperatures melt the sea ice, more bears are forced to remain on land rather than at sea, their preferred habitat.
“If the ice was strong enough, the bears, or at least some of them, would have already gone to sea, where they could hunt for seals or sea hares,” Mikhail Stishov, coordinator of WWF-Russia projects for the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, told CNN. “Similar situations are becoming the norm. We need to adapt to this so that neither people nor bears suffer.”
Thankfully, no incidents have been reported between bears and humans. Still, Ryrkaypiy’s 500 residents are understandably stressed. What will happen if the bears run out of walrus carcasses to eat? They might venture even closer to people’s homes.
“The psychological situation in (Ryrkaypiy) is complicated, women worry, because their children walk to school,” said Anatoly Kochnev, a scientist at Russia’s Institute of Biological Problems of the North.
Volunteers on “bear patrol” are now on lookout at the town limits. School buses have also begun picking up children so they don’t have to walk to school.
This is climate change in action, folks.