Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 37: In the News

I wrote about the incident of the bear being shot on July 4th. Yesterday, the story hit the newspapers. CBC and Toronto Sun took it up, so I now have a few more facts to work with.

This is the polar bear that was shot. If you are at all familiar with polar bears,
you can easily see how skinny this one is. You can also see the head of a tourist
behind a rock closer to the water who was taking some pictures on the beach
when the polar bear came within 3 m of him. 

The two news stories differ a little bit which doesn't give me a very clear picture of what happened. Both say that there was a tourist taking photos on the beach. Neither explain whether the tourist knew that there was a bear there and intentionally went towards it to take pictures or whether the bear came towards the tourist and the tourist couldn't do much to prevent it. So somehow this situation of a bear on the beach close to the tourist occurred. A woman in an apartment saw the bear pacing around the photographer and called for help. When the police got there, they tried to use deterrents, but the deterrents had no effect on the bear. The bear even ran the other way and into town where it was in people's backyards and up against windows. The police confronted it again in town when it was back on the road after hearing a scream (no humans were hurt just surprised). The bear charged the suburban before the officer could back away - bears can charge at 40 km/hr. They managed to get it to a clear area and shoot it.

This behaviour is extremely unusual for a polar bear. So what could have caused this bear to act so aggressively? The CBC article suggested that rabies might have something to do with it and the bear is going to be tested for this. Another article suggested that the "late spring and lack of food" could be responsible for the aggressive bears across Manitoba (6 other have been destroyed after breaking into cottages). Will this behaviour become a trend? Especially if sea ice continues breaking early, pushing the bears onto land earlier without being able to eat their main diet - the seals?

After reading these articles, I can understand why the police chose to kill the bear. The bear was not acting naturally at all, from the pacing around the tourist to the ineffective bear-bangers to the running through yards in town, this was a really serious situation. My opinions that I posted earlier about the negative interactions between humans and wildlife in human-settled areas still applies and in a philosophical sense is still worth thinking about. However, in the practical sense of how to truly deal with the large predators walking through town, it is hard to say that they should have done anything differently when the usual methods didn't work. The only thing I see in this situation which may have prevented the polar bear's death is the scene at the beach. The tourist should not have been out there alone and really ought to have known that there was a bear in the area before getting out of his car and probably should have had a deterrent with him.

As LeeAnn likes to say, "As soon as you step out of the front doors, you are in bear country." Polar bears can show up anywhere at anytime. The safest place is inside. As soon as you go outside, there is a chance that a bear is around the next clump of trees. It is not like the south where you can go on walks by yourself without fear of being mauled and eaten, the literal fear up here. Respect the bear.

1 comment:

  1. I say let the tourist figure out by himself/herself how to get out of that situation, seeing as that person should not have been there. Let the polar bear go all darwinian on him, at least it won't be too skinny. :P