43 bears arrive to feast on two rare Red List whales washed ashore close to far-flung settlement.
Residents were warned not to leave the house after dark, stay in groups, not to throw food waste near the houses. Picture: M. Deminov/WWF
During a storm, the whales were washed onto beaches close to the village of Ryrkaypy. The were swiftly followed by the hungry polar bears. A WWF Polar Bear Patrol team led by Tatiana Minenko pasted up flyers around the settlement with a warning about the danger and announced a curfew after dark.
The team fear the bears will move to the village dump, posing an acute threat to locals. They have already appeared on the outskirts of the community, 200 km east of Billings.
'Many polar bears stay near the whales,' said project manager Viktor Nikiforov. 'Our patrollers Valery Kayarahtyn and Maxim Deminov are on duty near the school from the morning and twice a day tour the surrounding villages, controlling the situation.'
The grey whales are part of the Chukotka-California population, on Russia's Red List of threatened species, said Andrei Boltunov, a deputy head of the Marine Mammal Council. Three other whales of this type were washed up along the Chukotka coast, in the extreme east of the country. We need to register all the cases of these animals' death and investigate the reasons of the incident.
43 bears arrive to feast on two rare Red List whales washed ashore close to far-flung settlement. Picture: M. Deminov/WWF
In September, a team of Russian scientists found the remains of ten grey whales washed up on an 800 km stretch of the Chukotka coast during an aerial survey. No cause has been determined for their deaths.
'Close attention should be paid to the crowds of polar bears near the remains of whales and walruses washed ashore,' said Nikiforov.
Similar situations have arisen elsewhere, for example near the village of Billings.
'As many bears as mosquitoes - both males and mothers with children,' said a WWF observer.
Residents were warned not to leave the house after dark, stay in groups, not to throw food waste near the houses, so as not to attract predators.
Shooting polar bears, protected under the Red List, is prohibited except in dire emergencies.
Irkutsk officials say supplies to major city could run out but Russian government says more analysis of environmental impact needed.
Pipeline will go through pristine Altai Mountains in supply route seen as economically vital by Kremlin.