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Experts: People should leave Chukotka’s settlement where polar bears are often visitors

The Ryrkaypiy settlement in Chukotka is near the Arctic Ocean’s shore, facing the Wrangel Island, which is a ‘maternity house’ for polar bears

ANADYR, November 29. /TASS/. Scientists say people from Chukotka’s one of the biggest settlements, Ryrkaypiy, should be evacuated because of often visits by polar bears, an expert of the Institute of the North’s Biology Studies and a member of an international working group on polar bears Anatoly Kochnev told TASS on Friday.

"The psychological situation in the settlement [Ryrkaypiy] is complicated, women worry, because their children walk to school, and they do not care whether the animals are on the Red Data Book or not, whether the bears have to come there or not," he said. "I as a scientist believe the settlement should not remain there. In 5km there is the Schmidt settlement, to where theoretically people could be moved - it is far from the cape, where polar bears are numerous now."

The scientist continued by saying about summer 2019, when experts registered groups of polar bears approaching the settlement - between 15 to 27 animals. Only five years earlier, not more than three-five animals would get close to the settlement. Over the past summer months, scientists registered 74 occasions the bears approached people - they behaved rather calmly and walked mostly along the settlement’s border.

Experts say, the situation is rather favorable due to walruses, which appeared in the area about eight years ago. They are the main food base for polar bears, and thus when the predators come to the settlement they are full anyway. The last lethal case, when a polar bear killed a human near Ryrkaypiy, was registered in 2011.

"We try to control the situation, but nobody would want to think what may happen there in 3-5 years," the scientist said. "If walruses abandon the cape or if their population reduces, polar bears would not cease to be there, but - they will be hungry."

The region’s official responsible for animal protection Yegor Vereshchagin told TASS the local government had not addressed the question of moving people from the Ryrkaypiy settlement.

"We have not received information from the people that they would want to leave the settlement, and if people want to take such a decision they could organize a referendum," he said. "Here, should be the desire not only of the government, but also of the people living there."

The Ryrkaypiy settlement in Chukotka is near the Arctic Ocean’s shore, facing the Wrangel Island, which is a ‘maternity house’ for polar bears. In the local language the settlement’s name means "rookery of walruses." The settlement’s population is over 500 people.