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Starving Polar Bears 'Besiege' Russian Scientists in a Scene From My Worst Climate-Change Nightmares

Image via Shutterstock.
Image via Shutterstock.

Five Russian scientists stationed on an island in the Kara Sea were surrounded by 10 adult polar bears and their cubs for two weeks, prompting an emergency delivery of flares and dogs, which eventually drove the bears away, according to the Guardian.

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Russian News Agency TSS reported that the scientists had been advised to “use extreme caution” in the situation, which basically trapped them indoors. A female polar bear had apparently taken to sleeping underneath one of the building’s windows, and one of the station’s dogs was killed. The bears also broke the station’s warehouse windows. According to TSS reports, measures were taken to ensure the safety of all parties involved, as polar bears are a protected species.

Although human-polar bear interactions are not completely abnormal in the context of Arctic weather stations, this particular situation likely would not have occurred if the sea ice the bears rely on wasn’t melting at an astronomical rate; similar instances of unusual polar bear aggression have been documented elsewhere. From The Guardian:

But Sevgidromet spokeswoman Yelena Novikova said such a large number of bears was “not standard”. She said the bears’ aggressive behaviour was related to climate change and the ongoing reduction in sea ice.

“The bears usually go to other islands, but this year they didn’t. The ice receded quickly and the bears didn’t have time to swim to other islands,” she said. “There’s no food on [Troynoy] island, so they came up to the station.”

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So next time you’re having a shitty Wednesday, just know that you could be stranded in a tiny, freezing research station above Siberia, listening to a ten-foot polar bear eat your dog.

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.

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Salvatore Corasaniti

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