A large group of aggressive polar bears are holding 600 people hostage in a small coastal town in Russia after feasting on the dead carcasses of a nearby colony of walruses.
Local officials believe the polar bears, a specie known for its intelligence, forced hundreds of walruses to jump off 125ft cliffs to their deaths. Twenty of the bears are now surrounding the coastal area of Ryrkaypiy.
“Around 20 polar bears remain practically next to the village,” Viktor Nikiforov, the head of WWF project Polar Bear Patrol, told reporters Thursday. “This autumn the situation is alarming.”
The colony of 5,000 walruses migrated from the area, but several of the polar bears stayed behind to investigate the village — one of the cubs managed to break into one of the houses.
Locals are patrolling the area and scaring the approaching bears away from homes, Nikiforov said.
Polar bear’s biggest traditional enemy were humans who over-hunted them for fur and other body parts, but in the last few decades, international efforts to restrict hunting and trading bears parts have replenished once diminished populations.
There are significantly more polar bears today than there were four decades ago, despite the animal being listed under the Endangered Species act in 2008 over fears global warming would destroy its Arctic habitat.
Official estimates the total number of bears between 20,000 and 25,000, which is a “qualified guess.” The actual number is likely higher.
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