A woman and her 1-year-old son were fatally attacked by a polar bear in the small whaling town of Wales, Alaska, last week. A recent lapse in patrolling polar bears in the small West Alaska town may have contributed to the attack, the first fatal attack by a polar bear in Alaska in 30 years. according to AP. As bears have less sea ice to hunt on, they may increasingly encounter humans in their search for food.
On January 17, 24 years old. summer miomick she had left a local school during a snow storm with her son Clyde Ongtowasruk; Shortly after, in poor visibility, the bear attacked, witnesses said. The people from the school went out to try to scare the bear, but it charged them and they were forced to take refuge inside, the Associated Press informed. Eventually, a community member arrived with a gun and killed the bear while he continued to attack the woman and baby.
Communities like Wales, Alaska have used polar bear patrols in the past to deter the animals from getting too close to people, relying on bright lights and loud sounds to scare off bears that venture too close. The city in Wales established a patrol in 2014, with help from the World Wide Fund for Nature, according to AP, but factors such as the spread of covid-19 caused the program to go dormant. Last week’s tragic attack has reignited interest in patrolling: “Now there’s absolute discussion in Wales, saying: ‘Hey, maybe things have changed to the point that we need this, and how do we do it?’ “. Susan Nedza, the chief administrator of the Bering Strait School District, told the AP.
Polar bears often hunt ringed and bearded seals in sea ice. But as the climate crisis changes weather patterns, contributing to warmer temperatures in the Arcticthe great white north has less ice to support the dietary needs of bears. This means that some polar bears come closer to cities while they search for enough food to survive the long, harsh winters.
“The ice-free period is three to four weeks longer than it used to be in the 1980s. And that translates to less time hunting polar bears and less nutrition for them,” said Alysa McCall, staff scientist at Polar Bears International, to Earth in 2022. “The worst case scenario, of course, is that a human is injured or killed by a polar bear. And while that’s rare, it does happen.”
In 2017, a woman in the Churchill, Manitoba area was narrowly delicate by a polar bear while coming home from a Halloween party. Ideally, patrols could help prevent both humans and vulnerable bears of being killed during human-wildlife interactions.