Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/11/2009 (3679 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Melting sea ice in the Arctic is pushing the bruins further onto shore and along much bigger ranges than even a decade ago, said Geoff York, polar bear expert with the World Wildlife Fund in Alaska.
"Around the Arctic we're getting reports of increased bear-human interaction, increased numbers of bears on shore, bears staying on shore for longer periods of time and, because of that, finding their way to human-use areas."
Amy Cutting, who works with Polar Bears International in Oregon, said Churchill is, in many ways, the ideal in polar bear management.
The northern community has a thriving tourism industry based on polar-bear watching from special buggies. The town also has a polar bear jail that houses wayward bruins until they can be transported — sometimes by helicopter — back to the sea ice. During Halloween, the community's perimeter is patrolled to make sure trick-or-treaters don't encounter anything besides ghosts and goblins.
But Cutting acknowledges that Churchill's approach is far beyond the financial and technological abilities of many places in the North.
"Not every community has those kinds of resources or even, necessarily, that kind of belief system or cultural acceptance of that level of intensive management."
But tourism definitely has to be considered in any plan because of the the growing interest in polar bears and increased accessibility to them, Cutting suggests.
"There's going to be tourism opportunities coming up around the circumpolar Arctic and those folks, as they start up their programs, can learn from the experiences of places like Churchill."
Conference organizers were overwhelmed by the interest in the polar bear session, said York. They had to change rooms after an expected 30 people quickly expanded to more than 70, including representatives from Alaska, Nunavut, Manitoba, Russia and Greenland.
The meeting today in Canmore has been tacked onto an international workshop on bear and people conflicts. The goal is to figure out what non-lethal methods can be used to deter polar bears.
"This is the first time an entire day has been dedicated to polar bear-human interaction," Cutting said. "I don't think it will be the last."
— The Canadian Press