Starving desperate polar bear wanders into Siberian town for food

Residents in the northern Siberian city of Norilsk had an unexpected visitor for the first time in 40 years.

A polar bear, hundreds of kilometres from its natural Arctic habitat, wandered into town looking for food.

The female bear, noticeably exhausted, sick and hungry, laid on the ground for hours rising only on occasion to sniff around for food.

Residents of the town took photos but were kept away from the bear by police.

Local environmentalists say no polar bear has been seen in the city for more than 40 years.

Oleg Krashevsky, a local wildlife expert who filmed the polar bear close-up, said it was unclear what had brought the animal to the city, although it was possible it had simply got lost. He said it had watery eyes and could clearly not see well.

Climate change has been damaging polar bears’ sea-ice habitats and forced them to scavenge more for food on land, bringing them into contact with people and inhabited areas.

A state of emergency was declared in a remote inhabited area of northern Russia earlier this year when dozens of hungry polar bears were seen scavenging for food and entering public buildings and homes.

State wildlife experts are expected to arrive in Norilsk on Wednesday to assess the bear’s condition.

Krashevsky said it was not clear what would be done with the polar bear as it looked too weak to be taken back to its natural habitat.

In April, a young male polar bear washed up on an ice floe in Russia’s Far East 700 kilometers south of its natural habitat, triggering efforts to rescue the endangered animal.

Polar bears’ dangerous encounters with humans are becoming more frequent as climate change melts the sea ice where the creatures roam. A polar bear invasion struck panic in the remote Arctic settlement of Novaya Zemlya in February, prompting the authorities to declare a state of emergency and the Russian military to pledge to address the issue.

The polar bear was spotted in the Kamchatka region villages of Korf and Tilichiki on Sunday, local media reported. The bear could have lost its sense of direction while drifting on an ice floe, environmentalists told The Associated Press.

Local officials said the animal, which is not native to Kamchatka and has no chance of survival in the region, appears wounded and does not show aggression toward humans.

“The bear looks drained and weak,” Svetlana Gubareva, deputy head of Kamchatka’s Olyutorsky district, was quoted as saying by The Siberian Times.

Russia classifies polar bears as an endangered species.

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