(CNN/Gray News) - A Russian town is facing a mass invasion of polar bears, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
People in Belushya Guba, a town of about 2,500 people, have reported more than 50 sightings of the bears. The town is on an island in the Novaya Zemlya island group, which is in the Arctic Ocean off of northeastern Russia.
Administrator Alexander Minayev said bears have attacked people and entered buildings, and parents are scared to send their children to school.
The authorities have announced a state of emergency.
“I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity,” Novaya Zemlya leader Zhigansha Musin said.
World Wildlife Fund Russia blamed the polar bear invasion on disappearing sea ice in the area because of climate change.
“In the absence of ice cover, animals are forced to go ashore in search of food. And settlements with spontaneous waste deposits are the most attractive places: bears will go for the smell of food waste, regardless of the availability of other food,” the organization said.
The bears have been gathering since December, the Siberian Times reported.
Because the bears are considered a vulnerable species, people in the town can’t shoot them without permission, but the emboldened bears seem to not fear the usual efforts to scare them off.
Authorities said they might have to consider a cull, TASS reported.
One video on YouTube shows a man walking past, and seeming not to notice, a polar bear roaming around an apartment block.
The island is a former Soviet nuclear test base, and where the largest nuclear explosion, the Tsar Bomba, was detonated in 1961.