The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has put out an official warning for the town of Ryrkaypiy, Russia stating that villagers need to be on constant high alert for polar bears, as it seems a large number of them have begun migrating south towards the town in an attempt to reach a colder climate. The WWF states that there can be upwards of 50+ bears roaming around the shores looking for food; the shores border the village.
Groups of police officers around the town have been assigned “Polar Bear Patrol.” According to the BBC, patrolmen have been posted all around the village’s border keeping an eye out for any wandering hungry bears, as well as standing guard near all schools in the town’s district to ensure every child’s safety. Additionally, police have enforced special buses to take children to and from school to make sure none of them are walking home alone and vulnerable.
The “bear invasion” is causing major terror in the Chutkotka region of Russia, so much so that all public events in the area have been cancelled indefinitely until they can gain further control over the situation. So far, police doing their daily border inspections have counted 56 bears conglomerating near the shores of Ryrkaypiy (BBC).
Conservationists and workers for the WWF alike are blaming climate change for the sudden migration. Typically, these bears live on Cape Schmidt, an area that’s less than 2 miles away from Ryrkaypiy; however, within the past few years there’s been more and more polar bear sightings in the village, this year being the largest group of bears yet. The Cape is typically an amazing source of food for the polar bears, but climate change has caused the area to become a lot warmer, weakening the coastal ice which removes a large area where the bears hunt for food. As a result of this, the bears travelled further along the coast to search for a colder area with a more vast food supply, thus the Ryrkaypiy invasion.
“The animals are both adults and young there are females with cubs of different ages. Almost all of them appear to be abnormally thin,” said Tatyana Minenko, head of Ryrkaypiy’s bear patrol program.
Minenko also mentioned how quickly this problem has progressed for the village, emphasizing that just five years ago the bear patrol team only had to deal with about five bears getting close to the village. The fact that the number has multiplied by ten within such a short span of time worries experts in the WWF and police, so much so that specialists feel the village should be completely evacuated. At the rate that the polar bear numbers are increasing, experts are worried about what the state of the village will be in another five years. However, the 700+ Ryrkaypiy residents are standing their ground, at least for now.
“If the ice were 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,” said WWF conservationist Mikhail Stishov.
“I as a scientist believe [Ryrkaypiy village] should not remain there,” he said. “We try to control the situation, but nobody would want to think what may happen there in three to five years,” said Anatoly Kochnev, polar bear specialist from the Institute of Biological Problems of the North.
Scientists and the WWF have made it clear to residents that if they wish to relocate their village they could “organize a referendum” to establish a general consensus, and decide as a democracy the easiest way to relocate. For now though, it seems as though villagers aren’t budging on leaving their homes, so the situation continues to be closely monitored.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.