An unusual weary, lone traveler shocked the residents of Norilsk, Russia, a city in northern Siberia, by wandering into the middle of town.
On Monday, a polar bear entered the industrial city for the first time in 40 years, reports Reuters. The bear, according to the numerous Norilsk residents who have spotted the wild animal, looked tired, hungry and possibly ill. Oleg Krashevsky, a local wildlife expert who was able to see the bear up-close, said the polar bear also appeared to have vision problems.
It is unclear how the animal arrived in the city, but Russia has seen an increase in the number of polar bears scavenging for food in the country’s villages and cities. This increase coincides with climate change’s continued effect on the species’s sea-ice habitat. As the ice polar bears depend on to hunt and rest disappears, more of the animals are appearing in Russian towns and homes looking for something to eat.
According to Reuters, the number of scavenging polar bears invading remote villages in northern Russia recently became so pronounced and potentially dangerous that a state of emergency was declared.
Locals in Norilsk believe the emaciated-looking bear that arrived on Monday wandered into the city after leaving its natural habitat and traversing the Taymyr Peninsula – a roughly 900-mile trip – in search of food, reports The Siberian Times.
Since arriving in Norilsk, the bear has been spotted around the city crossing roads and rooting around for something to eat. Many residents have been able to get close enough to the bear to capture video and photo.
According to The Siberian Times, the local police are keeping an eye on the animal and watching to make sure no one gets too close to the large bear. Authorities are said to be waiting for a decision from the national government, per Russia’s endangered species laws, on how to handle the animal. The polar bear will either be sedated and returned to its Arctic coast habitat, or moved to a Russian zoo.
The choice will likely come down to the bear’s health condition and whether experts think the animal can survive on its own in the wild.