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Arctic scientists drive off polar bears after two-week siege

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Thursday, September 15, 2016, 1:51 PM - Scientists in the Russian Arctic have driven off a group of polar bears that had besieged their station for two weeks.

The five researchers were posted at a weather station on the remote Izvesti Tsik islands in the Kara Sea, when at least 10 polar bears and an unknown number of cubs arrived in the area, coming dangerously close to the site.

The Guardian says one of the female bears actually slept beneath the window of one of the installation's buildings, and one of the researchers' two dogs was killed. The researchers' work suffered as well, as they were unable to do field work or check in on instruments away from the main site.

The group ran out of the flares typically used to scare the bears away. The next supply run that would have delivered more flares, as well as more dogs, was about a month away, according to a release from Russia's TASS news agency.

However, the Guardian reported earlier that help arrived much sooner than that, in the form of Russian research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov, which the newspaper said was operating in the area. It made a detour to the besieged scientists, who were then able to drive off the bears with the help of more flares and dogs.

Officials with Sevgirdromet, the government agency that operates the station, told TASS similar incidents have happened before. However, a Sevgirdromet spokeswoman told the Guardian the number of bears involved in the siege was more than usual, and pointed directly to climate change and lower sea ice levels as a factor.

"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," Yelena Novikova said. "There’s no food on [the] island, so they came up to the station."

Polar bears are considered a vulnerable species worldwide. TASS says the bears are considered an endangered species in Russia, where hunting them has been banned since 1957.

SOURCES: The Guardian | TASS

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