See the first-ever photos of polar bears playing in the Russian arctic house
Dozens of polar bears have made themselves comfortable in abandoned buildings on an Arctic island, and a Russian photographer recently snapped remarkable photos of the bears peeking through windows and perched on porches.
When photographer Dmitry Kokh traveled to the remote Russian region of northern Chukotka in late summer 2021, he hoped to find something polar bears photographing on Wrangel Island, a natural reserve and World Heritage Site protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, located above the Northern polar circle.
Instead, he found a strange and unexpected sight: on smaller Kolyuchin Island, south of Wrangel Island, more than 20 polar bears had made their home in buildings that were once part of a Soviet weather station. Kokh photographed the polar bears in their run-down homes and shared the photos on his website and on Instagramalong with other examples of his dramatic photography of sea creatures, and the images resonated with viewers and quickly went viral, Kokh told Live Science.
Related: Polar Bear Photos: Stunning shots capture Earth’s icons of climate change
As Kokh sailed 2,000 kilometers north to the islands from his starting point in Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka, he noticed that there was far more sea ice during the summer months than is typical for the north coast of Chukotka. The abundant sea ice could explain why the bears visited Kolyuchin Island instead of staying further north on their usual summer grounds, as polar bears use sea ice for hunting seal loot, he said.
Kolyuchin is so small, “you can see almost the whole island from your boat,” he said, and although there was once a Russian weather station on the island, it was abandoned in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Shortly after Kokh’s boat docked near Kolyuchin to wait for a storm, “we saw movement in the window of this weather station — and then we saw it was a bear,” Koch said. “We saw one, then we saw another, then 20 of them. And they were all in this building.”
To capture the photos, Kokh used a camera mounted on an aerial drone that had been modified with low-noise propellers so it was quiet enough to slowly approach the bears without disturbing them. In the photos, the bears appear unconcerned with the camera and photographer — but when it comes to polar bears, appearances can be deceiving, Kokh warned.
“Polar bears are very clever — and sometimes tricky — hunters,” he said. “Sometimes they pretend not to look at you and they’re relaxed; At that moment they are ready to attack.”
A nature reserve worker was with the group at all times and, as a precaution, carried a rifle and flares to ensure the protection of the team. Polar bears weigh up to 770 kilograms, but despite their mass, they are surprisingly fast and can gallop at speeds of up to 40 km/h. according to McGill University.
Polar bears typically inhabit remote parts of the Arctic far from humans, but climate change is altering their habitat and has even displaced bears To conquer cities in the Russian Arctic in search of food. Since 1979, the sea ice that bears rely on for hunting has shrunk and thinned, and researchers predict summer sea ice could disappear from the Arctic by the end of the century. Live Science previously reported.
Though polar bears face an uncertain future, these images of the bears peering out of derelict buildings are a reminder that life on Earth can continue even when man-made objects and structures collapse, Kokh told Live Science.
“But life will only exist forever if we take care of it,” he added.
Originally published on Live Science.