A polar bear chased several residents around a small, isolated Alaska Native whaling town, killing two people in an extremely unusual attack before another community member shot the bear to death, according to authorities.
The maiming of a woman and child occurred Tuesday in Wales, an isolated Bering Strait coastal community on the western tip of the North American continent — about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Russia — that is no stranger to coexistence with polar bears.
Like many remote Alaskan villages, this predominantly Inupiaq community of about 150 organizes patrols when the bears are expected to arrive, from July to early November, before the sea ice forms and the bears take to the frozen landscape. to hunt seals
This makes what happened this week almost unheard of, because polar bears are often far away on the ice in the dead of winter and not close to villages, said Geoff York, senior director of conservation for Polar Bear International, a talk group. The last fatal encounter with a polar bear in Alaska occurred in 1990.
“I would have been walking around the Welsh community probably without any (bear) deterrents because it’s historically the time of year that it’s safe,” said York, who has decades of experience studying polar bears. “You don’t expect to see bears because they would be out on the sea ice hunting seals and doing their thing.”
It’s not clear if this attack was related to climate change, but it’s consistent with what is expected as the Arctic continues to warm four times more than the rest of the Earth, changing the ecosystem in ways that are not yet fully understood. York said. However, this particular bear is a member of a population that is doing quite well, said Andrew Derocher, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta and an expert on polar bears.
Whittle reported in Portland, Maine, and Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska.
Source: El Nuevo Herald