Nature and Biodiversity

This exhausted polar bear has wandered into a Siberian city

Seven-year-old polar bear Commander Sedov shakes off water in his pool at the Royev Ruchey zoo while playing with a ball in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, October 4, 2009. Unusually warm weather for this time of the year with temperatures over 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) has prompted the bear to spend much of his time in his pool. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin    (RUSSIA ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS)   FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE: ALSO SEE GM1E5AO05B301 - GM1E5A41GLB01

The bear was seen scavenging around for food in waste sites. Image: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

Tom Balmforth
Writer, Reuters
Anastasia Adasheva
Writer, Reuters
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Russian Federation

A starving polar bear has strayed hundreds of kilometers from its natural Arctic habitat and wandered, exhausted, into the major Russian industrial city of Norilsk in northern Siberia.

The female bear, visibly weak and seemingly ill, lay despondently on the ground for hours on Tuesday in Norilsk’s suburbs, its feet caked in mud, occasionally rising to sniff around for food.

It is the first polar bear seen in the city in more than 40 years, according to local environmentalists.

Image: NSIDC

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.

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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 Russian 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.

Local residents in the city known for nickel production came out to photograph the bear and look at it as police prevented them from getting too close.

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.

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