© WWF-Russia

WWF will help meteorologists stay safe from polar bears

16 August 2018

Polar bear Russia Wildlife

With the support of WWF Russia, the weather station on Vaigach Island will be prepared for polar bear visits - staff will be trained, and the building and territory will be equipped with security systems.

According to Natalya Morozova, head of the weather station, bears are often guests there; the most common time is in spring and autumn, during their migration. In 2015, meteorologists were literally locked in the building after 5 aggressively-minded polar bears settled near the building. For several days people were afraid to go outside. The authorities had to send a vessel to Vaigach with a helicopter on board. Only with its help predators were driven away, and the weather station continued its work.

That incident ended safely. However, meeting with a polar bear can turn into a serious tragedy. In September 2011, a polar bear attacked a 54-year-old specialist who worked at the meteorological station on the Island of Hayes (Franz Josef Land archipelago).

Roman Ershov, the Head of the Northern Hydrometeorological Service (FGBU Northern UGMS), notes the importance of the joint project with WWF Russia: “Prevention of human-polar bear conflicts is one of the main tasks when organizing labour protection at our stations. It is important for us to preserve the life and health of our station staff and minimize harm to the polar bears."

WWF's grant to the Northern Hydrometeorological Service will help to protect staff and property of polar station. The building will be equipped with bars on the windows, physical and electronic barriers and a video monitoring system will be installed around the territory. Polar explorers will be provided with equipment to deter polar bears.

In addition, the team will be trained. Specialists will learn how to handle household waste so as not to attract animals, how to behave when meeting a bear around the station, how to use deterrent means and keep records about the behaviour of bears.

"WWF-Russia has been working on prevention of human-polar bear conflicts for several years. We have polar pear patrols operating in the villages of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug and in Chukotka, we train the local population and support them with equipment and transport, says Oleg Sutkaitis, Director of the Barents Office, WWF Russia. We will try to apply all our experience and accumulated knowledge to Vaigach Island. I am sure that this project will make the work of polar researchers safer and, at the same time, minimize the threat to the life of polar bears, which are by right the main symbol of the Arctic."

This fall the necessary equipment will be delivered to the station staff on Vaigach Island, then installation work will begin. Based on this pilot project, it is planned to create a standard method for preventing conflicts with polar bears that can be used at other weather stations in the Russian Arctic.