When people think of polar bears, they don’t usually imagine the animals in cities crossing roads or scavenging for food in garbage dumps. However, with climate change leading to a hastened destruction of their habitat, who knows, such sights may soon become commonplace.
Authorities and residents of Norilsk, a Russian city in the Arctic circle, were aghast to see a polar bear wandering through their city. Exhausted and emaciated, the animal may have travelled over 1,500 km from its home in the Arctic to reach the industrial town. Norilsk is nearly 500 km from the seashore.
A photojournalist with the Zapolyarnaya Pravda newspaper, Irina Yarinskaya, tracked the bear’s progress across the city, as she wandered in search of food, hardly scared of humans.
Four days after her arrival in Norilsk, the polar bear was sedated and caught and was taken to the Royev Ruchei zoo in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk on Friday.
Over four days police and city authorities had been following the bear, keeping citizens from feeding her human food which could be toxic for her digestive system. Authorities were waiting for a decision from Russia’s Federal Nature watchdog RosPrirodNadzor on whether the bear should be sedated and flown back to the arctic or taken to a zoo.
The bear was seriously ill with strong diarrhoea after eating rotten food from local dumpsters, experts told the Siberian Times. “This is a dangerous state for the animal, she needs urgent medical treatment,” vet Georgy Belyanin told the Times.
Polar bears use floating Arctic ice as pivots to fish from. Large mammals, they catch seals and harp fish from the cold Arctic water. As Arctic ice begins to melt sooner and quicker each year, polar bears are unable to float out into the sea to hunt. This may have been forcing them landwards, walking miles to look for food, experts say.
Over the last two years, more and more bears have been venturing into human settlements. In May, the UK Telegraph reported how Russian coastal towns had begun to arrange polar bear patrols to ward off the intruders. The Russian city Amderma, for example, has already had eight polar bear visits in 2019, up from five in 2018. In April, a polar bear reached the Russian village of Tilichiki from Chukotka, a peninsula in the North East extremity of Asia, some 700 km away.
In February, several polar bears invaded the restricted-access military town of Belushya Guba, leading to an emergency situation.