April 17, 2019
April 17, 2019 6:31 PM EDT
In this photo taken on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, a polar bear walks on ice near in Tilichiki, about 936 kilometers (585 miles) north of Petropavlosk Kamchatsky, Russia. (Alina Ukolova via AP)
MOSCOW — Residents of a village in Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula were stunned by the sight of a polar bear prowling for food hundreds of miles from its usual habitat.
Russian media reported Wednesday that the exhausted-looking animal apparently travelled from Chukotka to the village of Tilichiki on Kamchatka, some 700 kilometres (434 miles) south.
Environmentalists said the bear could have lost its sense of direction while drifting on an ice floe.
“Due to climate change, the Arctic is getting warmer, hunting environment gets smaller and less convenient,” said Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace. “The ice is receding, and polar bears look for new ways to survive. And the easiest way is coming to people.”
Locals were making the bear feel welcome, giving it fish, media reported.
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Videos posted online showed the animal moving past residents, showing no aggression.
Authorities in Kamchatka are preparing a rescue effort later this week. They plan to use a sedative to put the bear to sleep and then airlift it to Chukotka in a helicopter.
Polar bears’ dependence on sea ice makes them highly vulnerable to global warming. Shrinking Arctic ice cover could increasingly deprive them of their usual prey, seals.