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    Polar bears wander into village in Russia's Far North

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    ST. PETERSBURG, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Residents in Russia's Far North have seen a rise in polar bears wandering around Amderma village, in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous district, a spokesman for the local administration said Wednesday.

    "About two weeks ago polar bears appeared around the village of Amderma. Locals say about five-ten bears of differing ages, and groups, wandered near the village of Amderma, and one of them was injured," the spokesman said.

    She said that the bears did not appear to be aggressive. However, the residents said the animals had earlier attacked soldiers at a nearby military base.

    Authorities are not permitted to kill the bears as they are a protected species and special permission is required by the Russian environmental regulator, Rosprirodnadzor.

    Residents are using vehicles to keep the animals away from the village.

    According to a U.S. Geological Survey report published last week two-thirds of polar bears could disappear by 2050 due to global warming. The rise in temperatures in the Arctic and the decline in sea ice, which bears depend on to hunt for seals, is linked to the decline in numbers.

    "There is a definite link between changes in the sea ice and the welfare of polar bears," Steven Amstrup, USGS scientist, said. "As the sea ice goes, so goes the polar bear."

    And Tuesday a Russian meteorological official from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute said, 2007 could be the warmest on record since climate monitoring in the Arctic Ocean began in 1937.

    "This year, the water is unusually warm in the Arctic Ocean and summer ice has significantly declined...The ice, due to the influence of warm air and water, has been greatly reduced," Sergei Balyasnikov said.

    Balyasnikov said that trends seen in recent years are continuing with the late 1990s seeing the start of warming in the Arctic. "But presently, the institute's scientists believe we are at the peak of warming."

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