Friday, March 09, 2007

Polar Bear Stories

Polar bears are much in the news right now, what with the concerns about the melting polar ice creating conditions of severe hardship for them. When the ice melts too early, they can't hunt seals on it when they should, and they don't get enough to eat to nourish themselves, talk about produce healthy cubs. The polar bear is the canary in the mine, as far as global warming is concerned.

Here are two stories which were in the news here several years ago about how the changing climate is effecting the bears and their relationship to people.

The first has to do with runway lights. You probably already know that in polar bear country, in the summer the sun doesn't go down. Now, it used to be, before the ice field began to shrink, that polar bears were never around the arctic villages during the time of year when it does get dark. They had already left on the ice.

Now, things have changed. Now, it begins to get dark before there is ice close enough to shore for the bears to use and so they can't leave as early as before. For the first time, they are around when runway lights have to be lit for planes to land. And what do you know -- polar bears don't approve of runway lights. When the lights go on, they will come in from quite a distance, stand on their hind legs, and box and break them. So, now when a plane is going to need lights in the northern villages, it is a balancing act to get the lights up soon enough for the plane's use but not soon enough for the bears to congregate and break them.

The bears being around the villages during the dark time has also had an effect on Halloween. It used to be that the village children would go out trick or treating in small groups, and no adult needed to accompany them because no one in a small (250 people) community would hurt them. But now, the fathers go out with them, armed with their most powerful hunting rifles, because polar bears become interested when they see groups wandering around the place and no one wants to take a chance like that.

The other thing this picture reminds me of is the female moose in Fairbanks which saw children out trick or treating one year and followed them to a house with a jack o' lantern on the porch. When the children left, the moose ate the pumpkin. And all evening, she would wait for another group to come along, follow them from house to house until they came to one with a jack o' lantern, eat that one and then await the coming of the next group of guides to goodies.

In A Nutshell follows.


Rain said...

That was great and the kind of things we'd never hear down here :)

Betty said...

"the canary in the mine" Very aptly put.