'Air bear' flight to Russian Arctic returns polar bear who drifted 400 miles south on ice


An “air bear” helicopter flight has returned a polar bear to the Russian Arctic after he drifted more than 400 miles south on an ice floe.

Fishermen ran into the two-year-old male bear last week near Tilichiki, an isolated village in the Kamchatka region on Russia’s Pacific coast. 

Since polar bears are not usually found in Kamchatka, it is believed that the marooned bear had floated in on a piece of ice from the neighbouring Chukotka region. He was nicknamed “Umka” after the playful polar bear from a Soviet cartoon.

The ice and shores of the Chukchi Sea between Chukotka and Alaska are home to 3,000 polar bears, according to a 2018 study, the largest population of the world’s largest land predator. They also live on the Bering Sea just to the south.

But as sea ice melts further and faster due to global warming, polar bears are being seen more frequently outside their normal habitat. 

A Russian military town on the Arctic island of Novaya Zemlya was “invaded” by polar bears in February.

A study published on Tuesday said the release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost will accelerate climate change. Taken into account with the loss of heat-deflecting ice, this will increase global warming by 5 per cent and add up to £54tn in economic consequences.


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