Global warming has been causing the thinning and retreating of sea ice in cold areas of the world, and as a result, polar bears are spending more time on land in the summer and fall. With the reduced population of seals, their primary food source, polar bears hunt for food near communities. Thanks to polar bear patrols, harmful encounters between the bears and humans are reduced.
Community polar bear patrols keep hungry bears away from villages and towns while supporting research. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) announced that the program, introduced in 2010, has dramatically reduced the rates of conflicts recorded.
"WWF is pleased to see that our ongoing partnership with the Hamlet of Arviat is continuing to pay off for both community members and the polar bears," said David Miller, WWF-Canada president.
"We are now working to share these successes with other northern communities to expand the program," he added.
How Do Polar Bear Patrols Do The Job?
Polar bear patrols assess the area through the use of snowmobiles or ATV, especially at night when bears are more likely to go to communities.
When they find these bears, they scare them off before the bears get too close to humans. They also have a 24-hour hotline residents can use for letting patrols know if a bear is spotted.
Scarce Food Supply Drives Polar Bears To Communities
Climate change influenced the conflict between polar bears and humans. Scientists found that the continuous shrinkage of sea ice during warm seasons forces polar bears to spend more time on land. This could lead to increased polar bear-human encounters.
Winter season, when there is a lot of ice, is the best time for polar bears to hunt seals. The crucial time for hunting and storing up energy, however, is becoming dangerously limited.
When the period without abundant food lengthens, the overall body condition of polar bears declines. This specifically affects females more since they nurse cubs and have less time to hunt for food.
Photo: Martin Lopatka | Flickr