At present, polar bears outnumber the residents of a small town in Canada’s tundra. But this is going to change very soon. Reports suggest that the speedy ice melting in Churchill, Manitoba, a town inhabited by almost 800 residents and 900 polar bears, will prove to be very devastating for the bears.
Experts say that the process will now begins in mid-June and this is about 30 days earlier than what used to be the case three decades ago. This means that the polar bears will spend more time on land. As a direct impact, it will also eat less and give birth to smaller cubs, which in all probability won’t survive.
Dr. Steve Amstrup, a scientist who belongs to the conservation group Polar Bears International, ranks them on a scale of one to five, where one is the minimum which indicates starvation and five is the maximum which denotes obesity.
Amstrup says a good number of the bears he saw this year ranked between two and three. This shows that a bear has not eaten anything in some months. Polar bears depend mainly on their fat reserves during certain period of the year when they do not get ice eating seals.
Polar bear populations in certain areas of the Arctic are as high as 25,000, but according to Amstrup the greenhouse gases created by human beings threaten future generations of bears by melting their habitat. He opined that an apt comparison of the climate change can be made with the tragedy of the Titanic ocean liner. It did not matter how many people were on the Titanic or how well they were doing, when the Titanic slipped beneath the waves and they lost their habitat that was it. So polar bears will also go away because of their dependence on sea ice.
Churchill attracts the bears so much because it is situated right on the coastline of Hudson Bay and they follow the coast searching for ice.
The ice melting could also point to the high possibilities of the bear population clashing with the local residents. This year there were two reported bear attacks that injured three people in all.
Bob Windsor, a natural resource officer at Manitoba Conservation, says he spots about 30 to 40 polar bears per week at Churchill. He says that for most of the time, the bears stay away from the residents, but some of them, are still unused to the newly found human company.
When they come, they come at night and are mostly chased away by Windsor and his friends using air horns of cars. This doesn’t work when they are in areas inaccessible by cars.
Windsor says that he recently encountered a very aggressive bear which seemed undeterred by his attempt to chase it away with his car. At one point, this one even tried to jump on the hood of his truck. Windsor jokingly says that he thought the bear was coming through his windshield. To defend oneself successfully from the bear he gives a few tips; look big, be loud, do things that will distract the bear.