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Arctic residents issued with rubber bullets to shoot at polar bears

By 0 and 0 and 0
31 August 2015


'They sleep near the houses. Two of them walk together. They are aggressive.' Picture: WWF Russia

It is illegal to shoot and kill polar bears but now residents in the Siberian Arctic are being issued with rubber bullets amid fears of attacks by the animals. Flare pistols are also used to scare away the bears.

Two places in the Siberian north are in particular danger - the villagers of Amderma, population 350, and the occupants of a lonely weather station on the island of Vaygach, between the Pechora and Kara seas. Until now the two female scientists and one male engineer have had no weapons to protect themselves from the bears which come close. 

One of the women reported: 'They sleep near the houses. Two of them walk together. They are aggressive. Recently they fought together near our house.'

Employees of the station go out twice daily to take measurements at the sea. 'This is dangerous: these people need to walk a few hundred metres,' reported WWF Russia.

The meteorologist added: 'So we go, your head rotating 360 degrees. Yesterday we came out and a bear was near the house. Three times our engineer fired a small flare pistol and the bear was not even scared. We managed to scare it off with a flare, but not far.'




'Three times our engineer fired a small flare pistol and the bear was not even scared. We managed to scare it off with a flare, but not far.' Pictures: WWF Russia

In Amderma, on the Kara Sea, one polar bear in particular is stalking the village. Nadezhda Ippolitova, head of the village, said to Nenets Information Agency, Nao24: 'We are trying to scare it somehow, so that he will go away, but no luck so far. He always comes back. 

'The situation complicated by the fact that we have neither the means, for example, flares, nor specially trained people to deal effectively with a predator.'

She made clear: 'For one month already this sick-looking polar bear has been trying to break into Amderma, regularly appearing on the outskirts. Locals are not surprised with the polar bears, they are by no means rare guests here. 

'In August alone aside from this annoying bear a mother with two cubs came from the tundra. We managed to scare them. With our assertive guest we cannot cope yet.'

The programme manager for WWF Russia's Bear Patrol, Viktor Nikiforov, said: 'The situation as it is now in the village will repeat itself. Amderma is probably the only place in Nenets Autonomous Region, where polar bears constantly appear. As a result, there is need for a special team with special equipment and the means to repel the bears. Bears must understand that it is bad to come to the village.'

In Amderma, on the Kara Sea, one polar bear in particular is stalking the village. Picture: Arctic Expedition Center

On the weather station, he said there was no fence protecting the meteorological outpost. 'The station staff have no weapons. In addition, they are not provided with the means to scare off the bears,' he said. 

Rubber bullets and flares have been provided now, yet it is unclear these will be enough, and Sevgidromet, the body charged with weather monitoring, has given the women permission not to leave the station if they feel under threat. The deputy chief of Sevgidromet, Alexander Driker, said: 'People's lives are more important than the weather.'

Laws protecting the polar bears 'have left our people defenseless in the Arctic'. In fact, he said, his employees have 'no right to purchase even a flare gun' for their self defence. Use of firecrackers are 'ineffective', he complained. 

'Polar bears which did not have time to go away with the poor ice often huddle near human habitation in search of food, so they are unlikely leave the station until November, when ice reappears.'

Governor of Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Igor Koshin, accepted that work to protect people in remote Arctic communities needed to be 'accelerated'. Rubber bullets and guidelines on their use had been provided, he said. He said people were partly to blame. 'It is important to be always prepared to meet bears, and remember the most important rule, which is often broken, never to feed a predator,' he said. 

Comments (7)

Polar Bears need access to sea ice over shallow water in order to hunt its seal prey. Seals stay in the shallow artic sea, as this is where the fish congregate. Thus the polar bears do not retreat with the sea ice, as now in summer the only remaining sea ice is over deep water. This is a recorded fact that swallow water sea ice no longer exists in the summer, allowing previously impossible ice free sea navigation around the top of Asia and North America. Without shallow sea ice the polar bears go hungry and are forced onto the land. Hungry polar bears will be attracted to the food smells of human settlements, particularly rubbish bins. One solution to maintain the population through lean summers and keep away from humans is to leave bait well away from settlements.
Alexander McMahon, North East Wales UK
18/01/2018 04:49
Bahaha Barbara, so indoctrinated. Bears are moving inland because of birds and bees, overpopulation! Large predators needs vast amounts of territory, and since hunting polar bears was outlawed by Russia in 1956 and by the United States in 1972, their population has EXPLODED. There were an estimated 10,000 polar bears in the early 70s and estimates now are at 30,000, meaning they need three times the area to live, hunt, mate, etc. There are also more people in the areas that polar bears frequent, more media coverage to sell global warming propaganda, and more Barbara Smiths spreading the same nonsense so it strengthens the popular belief that "we need to save the bears, oh my!" Part of a good nature conservation program is culling. When an animal population gets too big or too invasive, kill off the extra for sport, food, nice polar bear coats, etc. We could kill off food source to drive their numbers back down, but something tells me you aren't too keen on clubbing seals...
J, Texas
15/09/2016 05:59
We're here, we're Queer, and we don't want any more bears!
Homer Simpson, Springfield, XX., USA
15/09/2016 02:03
It looks like the Russian bears are preparing for a new COLD WAR!!!
Loko moko, London
14/09/2016 18:48
Send in some troops.Then why cant the bears receive a "sleep-shot" and be carried off by helicopter to some other place . When the ice returns they will stay there and not bother anybody.
14/09/2016 17:49
I don't think I could bear it!
Patrick , Sydney
14/09/2016 14:48
This us a dreadful situation, but essentially this human-animal conflict is the result b
of human-caused climate change. So the polar ice is melting very rapidly, and just where are the polar bears to go except on land? They can't catch seal on the diminishing ice anymore.

The only way to contain the conflict would be to fence off the villages being threatened by polar bears--and yes, don't feed them. American tourists in Yellowstone National Park are constantly admonished, "don't feed the bears". As for the meterologists, they might have to carry guns with live ammunition in case of an emergency. Very sad this is happening.
Barbara Smith, Madera, CA. USA
14/09/2016 05:59

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