A hungry and exhausted young polar bear was spotted wandering in the suburbs of the Siberian industrial city of Norilsk this week, hundreds of miles from its usual habitat.
This is just the latest recent sighting of a bear in a Russian urban area, but the last time a polar bear appeared near Norislk was more than 40 years ago, Anatoly Nikolaichuk, head of the Taimyr Department of the State Forest Control Agency, told Russian state news agency TASS.
“He is very hungry, very thin and emaciated. He wanders around looking for food. He almost doesn’t pay attention to people and cars,” Oleg Krashevsky, a local wildlife expert who filmed the animal close up, told CNN. “He is quite young and possibly lost his mother.”
“He probably lost orientation and went south,” Krashevsky added. “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.”
Sea ice across the Arctic is rapidly retreating due to climate change, forcing the bears to travel farther to find food.
Local residents were warned to be careful entering the tundra zone of the Talnakh region, where the bear was seen, according to an announcement from the local civil defense and emergency situations ministry on TASS.
The animal was first seen by a group of teenagers, who filmed it and posted the video on Instagram, Krashevsky said.
“I saw it was not fake and raised the issue with local authorities,” he said. “As an expert on bears, I went to look for him … I found him in the middle of the day.”
Local news site NGS24.RU on Wednesday quoted Andrei Korobkin, the head of the state department of wildlife protection, as saying that experts would be arriving from Krasnoyarsk to examine the bear and determine possible symptoms of exhaustion or physical trauma.
The specialists will bring provisions as well as medicine to restore the bear’s health, NGS24.RU reported.
Polar bears are on the International Red List of Threatened Species and in the Red Book of Russia of endangered species. Citing experts, TASS said there are 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears in the world. In the north of Krasnoyarsk, a vast administrative region in Siberia, the bears inhabit the coast and islands of the Arctic Ocean, the agency added.
In April, a starving polar bear was spotted in the village of Tilichiki in the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, also hundreds of miles from its usual habitat.
In February, the remote Russian archipelago of Novaya Zemlaya declared a state of emergency over what local authorities described as an “invasion” by dozens of the hungry animals.