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Stranded by melting ice, polar bears descend on remote Arctic village in search of food

Nearly 60 polar bears have been stranded on the Arctic coast near a remote village in Russia’s far east after warm winter weather hampered their hunting routine.

Locals counted at least 56 bears after they arrived on the outskirts of Ryrkaypiy earlier this week, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said.

A WWF video showed the bears roaming the snowy shore around the carcasses of dead seals.

Local residents are not surprised by an occasional polar bear visit but the size of the bear party this time is unusual, the fund said. Recent years have seen an increasing number of reports of polar bears wandering into villages in the Russian Arctic, mainly due to the ice melting in areas where the bears would typically hunt seals.

The Chukotka district government said in a statement that the situation was “under control” after the village community centre had to cancel all public events including musical -rehearsals for safety reasons. Children are being bussed to the school.

Environmentalists blamed global warming for the influx.

“If the ice was thick enough, the polar bears or at least some of them, would have gone out into the sea where they could hunt for seals,” Mikhail Stishov, the WWF Russia coordinator for biodiversity in the Arctic, said in a statement. “For the time being, they’ll have to search for food by the shore.”

Police, border guards and volunteers have been -dispatched to monitor the bears and make sure they do not approach -residential areas.

The local government said that it expected the bears would leave as soon as the ice was thick enough to walk on.