SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: February 11, 2019

SNIP: Polar bears are typically born on land but live mostly on sea ice, where they hunt and feed on seals. But as Arctic ice thins, an occurrence linked to the acceleration of climate change, the animals move ashore, ravenous. They scavenge, sometimes coming into contact with human populations.

Novaya Zemlya is a Russian archipelago stretching into the Arctic Ocean. Officials in the Arkhangelsk region, where the archipelago lies, declared a state of emergency Saturday because of the marauding mammals. At least 52 bears were massed near Belushya Guba, the main settlement on the island territory.

Now, they could be selectively slaughtered if Russian authorities can’t figure out another way to keep them from menacing the residents of the remote island outpost, where they began to collect in December 2018. Warning of the “mass invasion of polar bears in residential areas,” local officials vowed action in response to “numerous oral and written complaints demanding to ensure safety in the settlement.”

Officials also said the situation was unprecedented.

“I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there have never been so many polar bears in the vicinity,” said Zhigansha Musin, a local administrative head, according to TASS, Russia’s state news agency.

So far, Russia’s environmental watchdog has withheld licenses for shooting the troublesome animals. Instead, a team of experts is being sent to the remote island community to try to protect residents. “However, provided that those measures do not help solve the situation, a cull will remain the only and forced answer,” TASS reported, suggesting that killing the animals as a means of population control is possible.

The polar bears are battling adverse conditions of their own, driven by changing conditions in the Arctic, which is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet.