While President Barack Obama was talking about climate change in the Arctic in Alaska, a group of Russian researchers were providing unwitting proof of his message: Unarmed and surrounded by ravenous polar bears, they are unable to leave their small weather station to measure the ocean temperature.
Five of the bears, fighting over food, had camped out near the station, which is staffed by two meteorologists and an engineer who are charged with taking the ocean’s temperature twice a day. They have been trapped about a week, according to CNN, which translated and quoted a statement from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia.
"People living in the Arctic must be prepared to face with a polar bear," said WWF Polar Bear Patrol project head Viktor Nikiforov in the statement. "However, the station staff have no weapons. In addition, employees are not provided with any scaring-off devices, and the station area is not fenced."
Residents elsewhere in the Russian Arctic are also being threatened by polar bears, the Siberian Times reported. The 350-population village of Amderma, on the Kara Sea, has been stalked by a “sickly looking” bear, residents told The Siberian Times. The research outpost is on the island of Vaygach between the Pechora and Kara seas, the newspaper said. Residents have received rubber bullets to repel them; it is illegal to kill the bears because they are considered endangered. Meanwhile, melting ice has made food scarce for the bears.
Such laws “have left our people defenseless in the Arctic,” said Alexander Driker, deputy chief of the weather-monitoring authority Sevgidromet that employs the meteorologists, to the Siberian Times.
And they may be there awhile.
“Polar bears which did not have time to go away with the poor ice often huddle near human habitation in search of food,” Driker said. “So they are unlikely leave the station until November, when ice reappears.”