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Russian Meteorologists Are Trapped By Polar Bears 2,800 Miles From Moscow

by Alexey Eremenko and Alexander Smith /  / Updated 
Image: Russian polar bears
Polar bears seen from an icebreaker in Russia in July 2007.Nery Ynclan / NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

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MOSCOW — Sometimes you can't get out of the office because your email inbox is overflowing. Sometimes it's because there's a pack of deadly polar bears outside the door.

Five meteorologists posted on a remote Russian island have been trapped for nearly two weeks by polar bears who've swarmed the area.

Their weather station is on one of the Izvestiy TSIK Islands in the high Arctic — 2,800 miles from Moscow and closer to northern Canada than the Russian capital.

Image: Russian polar bears
Polar bears seen from an icebreaker in Russia in July 2007.Nery Ynclan / NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Polar bears are not uncommon in the area, which is surrounded by pack ice in the winter, but the local population has more than doubled this year to around a dozen.

And the stranded meteorologists have run out of the flares they use to scare off the beasts.

"The bears live in the Arctic, you know — we can’t ban them from hanging around," station supervisor Vasily Shevchenko told NBC News by telephone from the northern city of Arkhangelsk. "Worst case, the station chief has a gun."

Some of the bears have taken to sleeping right outside the windows of the remote outpost, according to Russian news agency TASS, which spoke to some of the meteorologists via satellite phone.

Since going outside amidst the animals is out of the question, the meteorologists have had to abandon some of their work.

Image: Izvestiy TSIK Islands
A map showing Russia's remote Izvestiy TSIK Islands in relation to Moscow and Europe.Google Maps

While the meteorologists are not currently in immediate danger, the weather bureau in Arkhangelsk — itself around 1,200 miles south of the islands and a week away by boat — is planning on sending a ship with more flares and devices that cause small explosions to scare away the animals.

The meteorologists work in one-year shifts, receiving supplies from the occasional ship that passes in their direction.

Polar bears are an endangered species. In Russia, it's a crime to shoot them unless in self-defense.

The animals suffer from global warming because it shrinks the floating ice that forms their main hunting ground. According to the environmental group the World Wide Fund for Nature, known as the WWF, this has prompted some polar bears to go near human habitats in search for food.

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