The Growing Conflict Between Humans And Polar Bears In Arctic 

Posted on June 14th 2019

polar bear 5

Recently a Russian village went on lockdown after being terrorised by roaming polar bears and that may well be just the beginning as Moscow allows greater activity to take place in an Arctic that is growing warmer. It is highly likely that human conflict with polar bears is only going to increase. Earlier in the year 50 polar bears invaded the Russian settlement called Belyushya Guba which is on the Novaya Zemla archipelago in the far North.

Polar bears roaming the street

As many as 10 polar bears actually roamed the streets and entered buildings and local authorities declared a state of emergency that lasted a week in response and sent an appeal to Moscow for help. Images of that event went viral and some people blamed the authorities for failing to clean a garbage dump close to the village that the bears visit to feed on food waste. Experts however say the main reason the polar bears ended up invading was because the sea froze later than it usually does which prevented them from hunting seals and sent them seeking out alternate sources of food.

Development in the Arctic

Russia is expanding its footprint in the Arctic as it seeks to explore for hydrocarbons. With the Northern Passage open for navigation, the country wants to expand its strategic military interests and experts think more clashes are inevitable between humans and bears. As development takes place in the Arctic there will most certainly be more conflict as polar bears lose their life platforms in several areas and seek to come ashore.

No ice

Novaya Zemlya is a two-island archipelago that sits in between the Barents and Kara seas and is the perfect example of a new Russian frontier that is located within polar bear habitat. Polar bears that roam the Barents Sea are experiencing the quickest reduction of ice over the last few decades having lost 20 weeks a year.  For millennia polar bears have migrated round about the time of the invasion to hunt for seals. This year because there was no ice they came ashore.

Construction has resumed

Since the invasion, ice did eventually form and the bears left to resume hunting but it is not possible to say for sue whether there will be a repeat of the incident in the future. As more humans arrive in the region, it is increasingly likely that there will be human-bear conflict. The region was a nuclear weapon testing site during the Soviet era which means it is a restricted territory, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military has begin building and has constructing new buildings and an aerodrome.

Greater conflict likely

The present rules regarding polar bears are centred around how to fend them off. Instead they should focus on fortification and prevention of contact. The village intends to install CCTV and will also deal with the waste. All arrivals at the airport are also required to listen to a lecture on the behaviour of polar bears. Moscow’s intention to develop the Northern Passage is another problem for the region’s polar bears. Icebreakers used where seals give birth negatively impacts the population which is the main source of food for polar bears.

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