Koch Industries, Big Coal and Big Oil are going to kill us all…but at least we’re going to get some SUPER-CUTE stories along the way! So, maybe it’s best we just enjoy the self-inflicted ride to extinction, and go out knowing we at least learned how to say “there’s a polar bear on my front porch” in Inuit.
The town of Kaktovik, Alaska is about as close to Nowhere as it’s humanly possible to get. Situated on the northeastern corner of Alaska near the Canadian border, Kaktovik shares the three-mile-wide Barter Island with the Cold War Era Barter Island Long Range Radar Station.
Polar bear sightings aren’t particularly uncommon here, outside of town; in fact, the local constabulary hires part-time “bear patrols” to go out and scare wayward bears back into the sea using shotguns loaded with bean-bag ammo. For the most part, the 300 or so residents of the area (largely Inuit natives) know to keep an eye out for bears while wandering around. But the bears, for the most part stay out in their natural habitat on the Arctic sea ice. Rarely does one intentionally venture close to humans or human residences; most of the local bears have felt the sting of bean-bag rounds before.
Ruby Kaleak was on bear patrol when she got a strange call over the radio. Two words, in a frail and terrified whisper:
Translation: “arctic entryway” and “polar bear” in English. No name, no address…just those two whispered words. Initially thinking the call was a prank, Kaleak and her co-worker talked it over, and made and postulated that the voice belonged to 81-year-old Betty Bower. The headed out to her house.
When they arrived, the pair at first saw nothing on Betty’s “qanitchaq,” the narrow, tunnel-like front porch Alaskans use to keep the arctic wind away from their front doors. But quickly, they realized that the very large shadow on Betty’s front porch was moving.
Suddenly, she shadow noticed them, and a massive, white head popped out of the doorway.
“I was shocked. It was humongous,” she said. “Just the neck and head was half the size of me, and I’m five-two.”
Upon closer examination, they realized the bear was devouring a drum of seal oil Betty had stored in the entryway. Seals and whales are still regularly hunted by the Inuit locals; the whale bones they leave on the beach far away from human homes are popular haunts for bears.
The polar bear (possibly recognizing the shotgun), turned and fled almost immediately, and ran away as the two approached. The only real harm was to Betty’s drum of seal oil.
Ruby says scarcity of food and sea ice are likely to blame for the massive bear’s incursion into dangerous human habitat.
“I think the bears ran out of food to eat at the bone pile. There is nothing for them to eat out there.”
Indeed, September is a low month for arctic ice formation, which starts picking up again in October. But ice formations have been growing later and later as the seas warm up. Every year sees less and less ice for the bears during late summer and early fall. The bears, very powerful long-distance swimmers, have been spotted in larger and larger numbers swimming across the open ocean areas from 15 to 65 miles around Alaska, looking for a place to land and live. And those places are melting quickly.
On one flight in 2008, a marine contractor spotted no less than nine bears swimming in the open oceans around Anchorage. How many of those made it to ice or land, nobody can say. Many of the bears drown before they reach sea ice, which is the only place from which they can hunt seals.
For that reason, bears have to make a choice between taking the gamble on drowning before they spot sea ice, where they can hunt seals…or staying on land to risk starving because there are no seals to hunt.
The presence of this massive bear right on a woman’s doorstep, knowing it was protected by people with shotguns, shows just how desperate the bears are getting.
Which, you know, probably doesn’t have anything to do with us pumping carbon into the atmosphere by the megaton. So, thanks to Big Oil/Coal, we’re all going to either burn to death, starve or get eaten by bears.
But, seriously…aren’t they ADORABLE?!? You know, there are less cute ways to die.