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Help rushed to Russian scientists trapped by polar bears

Two polar bears stand near a remote weather station on the northern Russian island of Vaygach, in a 2015 file photo. This year it is another Russian weather station  

Vladimir Kipriyanov/WWF

LONDON -- A team of Russian scientists who had been trapped in their remote Arctic weather station by a bunch of hungry polar bears lurking outside has been sent a new supply of bear-scaring flares, and a dog to replace the one the bears ate.

Russian news agency TASS reported Thursday that the team, which includes two married couples, received a fresh supply of flares and several dogs to help keep “about a dozen” polar bears at bay. The supplies were delivered by a helicopter flying from a research vessel that belongs to Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.

Since Sept. 10, TASS said a mother bear and some cubs had remained outside one of the research station’s windows. The group of bears grew in the several days after the scientists ran out of flares.

The team was forced to remain inside the station on the island of Troynoy, abandoning some of their weather observations. They were under direction from Russian authorities to keep themselves safe, but also to avoid harming the polar bears, which are a threatened species.

During the several-day-long ordeal, one of the bears broke a window in a warehouse at the weather station, and another killed one of the two dogs that lived there with the human staff, but there were no bear-human encounters reported.

If it all sounds familiar, almost exactly the same thing happened to a different team of Russian weather scientists at a different remote weather station about a year ago. Both that incident and this year’s have taken place north of the Russian mainland in the Kara Sea.

Russian officials told TASS the bears would likely disperse in the coming month, as more ice forms in the Arctic and the large predators go further afield in search of food.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.