Residents in Norilsk in Siberia spotted on Sunday a polar bear walking the streets and foraging in the industrial zone of the city, located above the Arctic Circle. Known for nickel production, the city is one of the most polluted places in Russia. A lot of people captured the bear on camera while it moved in garbage and gravel unmindful of people and traffic. Norilsk is some 500 km from the open shore yet locals believe the bear has walked much further to reach the city, crossing the vast Taymyr Peninsula, reported The Siberian Times.
Oleg Krashevsky, a local wildlife expert, told CNN that the bear was quite young and might have lost its mother. “He probably lost orientation and went south,” Krashevsky said. “Polar bears live on the coast which is more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away from us. How he got to Norilsk is not clear.”
She said the bear had watery eyes and couldn’t see clearly. Emiciated, hungry and visibly ill, the bear is likely to have walked 1,500 kilimetres inland in search of food, The Siberian Times reported. The last time a polar bear was seen in the town was in 1977.
‘He is seriously hunger-bitten. He is hardly able to blink and keep his eyes open and almost unable to walk,’ Irina Yarinskaya, photographer of Zapolyarnaya Pravda newspaper, told The Siberian Times. She photographed the bear as he wandered amid downtown traffic.
‘He was lying for a long time, having a rest, then he crossed the road and entered the industrial zone. He went towards the gravel and sand factory first, then he crossed one more road and headed to a dump,” she said.
According to Russian state news agency TASS, there are 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears in the world. In the north of Krasnoyarsk, a vast administrative region in Siberia in which Norilsk falls, the bears inhabit the coast and islands of the Arctic Ocean.
As ice continues to melt due to global warming, polar bears are struggling to find hunting territory, according to Ekaterina Mikhailova of Krasnoyarsk Royev Ruchei zoo. The bear will most likely be transferred to a zoo though many locals want it to be sedated and left in its natural habitat.
In February this year, nearly 50 bears invaded the town of Belushya Guba in Novaya Zemlya archipleago in the Arctic ocean, chasing people and even entering homes. The influx of bears was worse than fearful residents could recall in the Arctic archipelago known as a Soviet nuclear test base, The Siberian Times reported.
A local official told the newspaper he had never seen such a massive polar bear invasion. Another local offical said there had been a large accumulation of polar bears around settlements from December 2018 to February 2019. Ilya Mordvintsev, a lead researcher at the Severtsev Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, told TASS that the number was extreme.
“Compared to previous years, they come ashore in the southern part of the archipelago, where the ice is changing. They migrate through Novaya Zemlya heading north, where the ice is solid,” she said. “It is migration from the south to the north. They are staying in that location [near Belushya Guba] because there is some alternative food. They could have gone past but for the food. But as there are bins with edible waste, they stop to flock.”