We tend to think of polar bears as beautiful but elusive animals that very few of us will be lucky enough to ever see in person. But for the people of Novaya Zemlya islands, a remote Arctic archipelago in Russia, polar bears are not mysterious enough these days.

Dozens of bears have besieged the islands, which are home to just 3,000 people. Belushya Guba, the archipelago’s main settlement, has declared a state of emergency after spotting 52 bears and reporting incidents of bears chasing people, looking for food in dump sites, and entering public and residential buildings.

Sad videos and photos of the animals looking for food in the garbage heaps of the incredibly polluted islands reveal the extent of the situation.

According to Vigansha Musin, local administration head, the event is unprecedented. “I’ve been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983,” he said in a press release. “There’s never been such a mass invasion of polar bears.” His deputy, Alexander Minayev, added that the presence of the bears is disrupting normal life on the islands. “People are scared, afraid to leave their homes,” he said. “Their daily routines are being broken, and parents are unwilling to let their children go to school or kindergarten.”

Although residents of Novaya Zemlya islands have tried to scare away the bears, it seems that they are unwilling to move. Polar bears are an endangered species in Russia, and shooting them is prohibited by law. A team of specialists is supposedly planning to sedate and relocate the bears, explains The Guardian.

Climate change has forced polar bears to change their normal migration route and hunting trails, resulting in the surge of polar bear activity in close proximity to humans, a situation dangerous for both bears and humans.

H/T: BBC News