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Polar bears walking the streets on Novaya Zemlya are habituated garbage bears, not victims of climate change

February 15, 2019

By Paul Homewood



News about the “polar bear invasion” of Novayo Zemlya has inevitably been seized on by the media as the consequence of climate change:




However, saner headed local experts know the real reason, as the Barents Observer reveals:


This story could very well be headlined: «When internet came to Novaya Zemlya».

Locals started to post photos and video of the more than 50 polar bears in their neighborhood. Over the last week, social media as well as online newspapers globally have gone mad over the news coming out from one of the remotest towns on the planet, the closed military settlement of Belushaya Guba.

The little-known town on the Russian Arctic archipelago have since last autumn been struggling with polar bears walking the streets and around the corners of apartment- and office buildings. Even walking by a baby-stroller inside an entrance, one of the video-recordings show.

Regional authorities have declared a state of emergency after the bears no longer react to noice- and light signals from guards trying to scare them off.

Belushaya Guba, like the entire Novaya Zemlya, is closed off military area. The newly upgraded air base Rogachevo is just a few kilometers outside of town.

But why don’t the bears want to leave the settlement? As previously reported by the Barents Observer, the Kara Sea off the east coast of Novaya Zemlya is this winter packed with very close drift ice.

Now, it appears like the human food-waste has a much more central role in the story than just the warming Arctic.

But first a look at the many media, including the Barents Observer, that last week jumped to conclusions pointing at climate changes when the stories about polar bears in trouble, or making trouble, found its way to global newsrooms.

The blog portal Polar Bear Science has collected links to many of the newspapers reporting about the sensational images from Novaya Zemlya.

The Guardian writes «What polar bears in a Russian apartment block reveal about the climate crisis.» The Washington Post writes under the headline «A ‘mass invasion’ of polar bears is terrorizing an island town. Climate change is to blame» and CBC makes a similar conclusion headlining its article «Russian Arctic town overrun by polar bears, climate change blamed.»

Mats Forsberg has sailed expeditions since 1982 and has assisted in TV productions about the polar bears in the Arctic. He has first hand knowledge on polar bears’ behavior.

«These bears are well-fed,» he says to the Barents Observer after reviewing some of the videos.

«I would say these bears are not hanging around the houses due to climate changes. They have huge amount of food dumped into nature by humans,» Forsberg says and concludes: «This is purely a on-site human made problem.»

Some of the videos posted by local residents on Vkontakte show how tens of polar bears are eating garbage at the local dump site in Belushaya Guba. The bears actually look fat.

Evaluating media’s reporting, the blog site Polar Bear Science concludes. «Global warming is blamed for the problem but as is so often the case, that claim does not stand up to scrutiny.»

The blog is run by Susan Crockford, a zoologist with more than 35 years experience, including published work on the Holocene history of Arctic animals.

  1. February 15, 2019 2:32 pm

    Could it be that it takes less energy to hunt for food in a garbage dump? Bears going to the easiest food source ought not to be a new revelation in science.

    • Ian Magness permalink
      February 15, 2019 3:06 pm

      Absolutely Bob. The same logic and common sense applies to grizzlies preferring sitting in the middle of a ripe blueberry patch gorging themselves, rather than charging around in freezing cold rushing water trying to catch salmon which are there at the same time. And, yes, I have observed this in Alaska. This didn’t, of course, stop an anxious BBC reporter last year claiming that the fact that the bears were feeding on blueberries meant that they were very hungry as there were no salmon in the river due to… well you guessed it. A little more observation and analysis would have painted a different picture but it seems that knowledge is an undesirable thing in the AGW world. Bears of course are voracious and opportunistic feeders that will take advantage of any food source, dead or alive.

  2. dearieme permalink
    February 15, 2019 3:02 pm

    One way to deal with the proponents of Goebbels Warming would be to encourage each of them to take part in an Adopt-A-Polar-Bear scheme. Surely they could each manage to make a suitable kennel for their back gardens?

  3. Broadlands permalink
    February 15, 2019 3:24 pm

    This has already reached Wikipedia…

    “Polar bears entering into humans area happen more than past and it’s because climate change effect. Global warming reduces sea-ice and forcing them to come in land for finding food. 2019 Mass invasion of Russian polar bears happened in February and Polar bears entering into The Northeastern Novaya Zemlya. Dozens of polar bear were seen entering homes and public buildings and inhabited areas, so Arkhangelsk region authorities declared a state of emergency on Saturday.”

    “It’s because climate change effect” (sic).

    Temperatures at Mayle Karmakuly are not significantly higher than in the 1930s.

  4. dennisambler permalink
    February 15, 2019 3:48 pm

    As Tom Jones might say, It’s Not Unusual, but Bob Dylan would say The Times, They Are A Changin’:

    Back in 1971:

    “Polar Bears Airlifted Out, Return Because They Love the Dump”

    By JAY WALZ NOV. 21, 1971

    “Last month, 24 polar bears were flown out of the town of Churchill, Manitoba, at a cost of about $400 each in a much publicized rescue operation.

    Two of the bears were back in town this week and, according to officials in Ottawa, it is only a matter of time before the others follow.

    The garbage dumps at Churchill and nearby Fort Churchill, a military installation, have become happy hunting grounds for the Arctic bears. Townsmen, bothered by the bears wandering their streets, had felt it better, easier and cheaper to move the animals than the dumps.

    A. G. Loughrey, deputy director of the Canadian Wild life Service in Ottawa, told a reporter that globally the polar bear is in some danger of extinction. But this doesn’t seem to be the case in the Churchill area. On a recent flight around Churchill, a port city on Hudson Bay, 1,200 miles north of Ottawa, Mr. Howard spotted 50 to 60 of the animals in one area, and 160 near Cape Churchill.”

    Forty five years on from the NYT report of 1971, Polar Bears became “Climate Refugees”

    “Polar Bears’ Path to Decline Runs Through Alaskan Village”

    “The bears that come here are climate refugees, on land because the sea ice they rely on for hunting seals is receding.”

    Not talking about Churchill that time, but the Churchill garbage dump continued to bring in the bears:

    In 2006:
    “The northern Manitoba community of Churchill is closing its dump and locking up trash in a new facility to discourage visits by polar bears.

    “The town’s dump will be buried, and garbage will now be stored in an old shipping and receiving hub at a former military base.

    “It’s a big building with a concrete floor. All the windows and doors have been covered up with metal bars to keep all the animals out,” said Shawn Bobier, district supervisor with the provincial Conservation Department.”

    It was ever thus and Churchill “bears” a striking resemblance to Novaya Zemlya, with a military background:

    View at

    “People and polar bears have encountered each other in the Churchill region as long as they’ve both occupied the area, a time span extending at least four thousand years into the past, but the story of the town’s modern day relationship with bears begins in the 1940s when, in 1942, the United States established a military base in Churchill, initially bringing nearly three thousand officers and enlisted men.

    At first, polar bears weren’t much of an issue around the base. However, bears soon learned to scavenge food at open dumps and trash pits.

    For bears, garbage is an especially attractive source of food. Bears don’t have to work hard to find it, people never stop producing it, and it’s high in calories. During the middle of the twentieth century, many of Churchill’s bears became increasingly attracted to trash and bears were frequently seen scavenging for food at the town dump. Mothers taught their cubs to feed on garbage, extending the bears’ reliance on it across generations. It’s also easy for bears to recognize that people are the source of the larder — if food can be found at a dump then it can be found near people’s homes as well.

    As usual, not much new under the sun…

  5. February 15, 2019 4:31 pm

    A fed bear is a dead bear.

    Dr. Crockford is pointing out that sad fact with these “habituated garbage bears.”

  6. February 15, 2019 4:43 pm

    Leave food waste, even in a bag, out in the open where I live and a flock of seagulls will descend on it within minutes, and will hang around hoping for more.

  7. Jon Scott permalink
    February 15, 2019 4:49 pm

    Any suggestion of climate change being responsible can ONLY come after long and detailed study. The fact that the Guardian jumps at this pointing the finger at climate change speaks volumes. They do not care anymore about a need for validating claims. They make no pretence anymore about what they really are which is a propaganda machine. No one does that for free. Someone is getting something in return for promoting this junk. Also they show complete contempt for their readers because this joke of a news agency along with the London office of Pravda ( The BBC) screeched and wailed ceaselessly about Polar Bears dying out because of global warming or climate change or whatever those who pull their strings want to call it this month and they are “bear” faced enough now to promote a deluge of well fed specimens as being caused by the same phantom menace.. Contempt for their readers. Shear unadulterated contempt!

    • February 15, 2019 5:27 pm

      The BBC now only broadcasts for its favoured audience, contempt for everyone else is indeed widespread and unchallenged, just look at how many “comedians” are involved in supposedly balanced panels.

  8. Curious George permalink
    February 15, 2019 5:12 pm

    Aren’t those bears extinct by now?

  9. John F. Hultquist permalink
    February 15, 2019 5:55 pm

    Different place, I wrote:
    Thanks Susan.
    A few days ago when I first saw this story my first thought was of the old home town dump, where we would go and watch black bears come and feed at night. Of course those sorts of dumps were closed years ago and the bears went back to their pre-dump ways.
    My second thought was that Susan would soon have a post on this, so I went back outside and finished clearing snow off of things.

  10. February 16, 2019 12:22 pm

    Do you mean to tell me that these gentle and sentient animals are rank opportunists? How gauche.

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