© Maksim Dyominov/WWF Russia

61 polar bears gathered near a village in Chukotka, Russia

6 December 2019

Polar bear Arctic Climate Change Russia Pan-Arctic Wildlife

WWF Russia’s Polar Bear Patrol helps local communities reduce conflicts between animals and people.

Over a period of four days, more than 60 polar bears gathered at Cape Kozhevnikova in Chukotka close to the village Ryrkaypiy looking for food. On the 6th of December, members of the Polar Bear Patrol counted 61 bears grouped in a small area near shore.

Tatyana Minenko and Maksim Dyominov, members of the Polar Bear Patrol in Russia, monitor Ryrkaypiy several times daily. Their main task is to stop bears from entering the village. Local volunteers help them by inspecting the area on snowmobiles.

In order to protect the community, all public events are cancelled, and buses have been arranged to transport kids to school and daycare.

Polar bears pose a huge safety risk for people living in the Arctic and conflict can lead to property damage, injuries and loss of life for both people and bears. Since 2006, when the first WWF-supported Polar Bear Patrol was established in Chukotka, Russia, WWF has responded with a variety of locally-led initiatives to help reduce conflict between people and polar bears.

In Russia, Canada, the United States and Greenland, WWF-supports polar bear patrols that deter bears before they get into populated areas. To help keep people safe, WWF is providing steel food storage containers and fencing around landfills in some Arctic communities.

© Maksim Dyominov/WWF Russia

Polar bears visiting Cape Kozhevnikova is typical for this area. However, such a massive gathering of polar bears is unusual and highlights a larger trend across parts of the Arctic.

“If there is enough ice, the bears would go further north to hunt the seals. Until the ice is not thick enough, they will stay ashore and can visit the village due to curiosity and hunger. Spontaneous waste deposits can attract the animals: bears will go for the smell of food waste, regardless of the availability of other food," says Mikhail Stishov, WWF Russia.

Gathering of polar bears are becoming more frequent, and we have to adapt and find the ways to avoid conflicts between people and animals."

- Mikhail Stishov, Arctic biodiversity projects coordinator, WWF-Russia

“We want to thank the administration of the village, local residents and the frontier guards for their help and well-coordinated work."

- Tatyana Minenko, the head of the Polar Bear Patrol in Ryrkaypiy

For more information please contact:

Polina Shkividorova PShkividorova@wwf.ru

Fanni Barocsi fbarocsi@wwfcanada.org