In their quest to gather scientific data, researchers sometimes face threats that could endanger their lives. Such appeared to be the case of a team of unarmed researchers in Russia who had an uneasy encounter with five hungry polar bears.

The researchers were trapped in their Russian base after they were surrounded by the pack of aggressive animals with the scientists appealing for help after fights broke out among the animals as they hunted for food near the Fyodorov weather station on the Island of Vaygach in the Arctic Sea.

The team, which is consist of two female meteorologists and a mechanic, normally leave the station two times a day to measure the water temperatures of the sea as part of their research regarding changes in polar weather but because of the presence of the polar bears, the researchers were not able to do so. The bears settled outside the weather station preventing the researchers from leaving the building to do their work.

The team tried to scare off the animals with flares but this did not deter the bears. The World Wide Fund for Nature in Russia also said that the team did not have any other weapon. One of the researchers said that the bears sleep near the station and have been fighting in recent days.

"They sleep near the houses. Two of them move around together," one of the team members related. "Our mechanic fired a small rocket that is used by hunters to signal, but the bear did not even seem scared. Using flares, he was able to drive it away, but it was close."

WWF Polar Bear Patrol project head Viktor Nikiforov said that people who live in the Arctic must be prepared to encounter a polar bear pointing out that the station staff do not have weapons.

Noting the vulnerabilities of the researchers, Nikiforov said that that the station area is not fenced and the employees do not have any scaring-off devices.

The Polar Bear Patrol appealed to the Russian government to provide the weather station with the needed equipment and means to scare off polar bears and the government has agreed to help.

Polar bears hunt seals for food but as artic sea ice level drops due to global warming, the number of seals is reduced as well. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that two thirds of polar bear will disappear by 2050.

Photo: Eric Savage | Flickr

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