Today, the first wild polar bear was shipped from Churchill to Winnipeg to begin its ‘transition’ to life at the Assiniboine Zoo. It will be housed at the International Polar Bear Conservancy Centre, for a time, before being shown to the public. Eventually, they will try and buddy him up with Hudson, the captive-born bear already on display.
This is being portrayed as a ‘good news’ story by really the entire media and this wild bear will now be an ‘ambassador’ for climate change whatever that means. Still, it just really outlines some of the fatal flaws in the world of polar bear ‘management’.
The fact that zoo or death were the only options presented is quite scary. Also, the fact this bear was sentenced based on one incident that just seems to have been a case of ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ is truly disappointing. All industry players know that we have the technology to track this bear if the will was there. Experienced polar bear people know that one incident does not mean that this bear will attack every human it encounters. However, the folks in charge have just been waiting for the ‘right’ bear to come along and be ‘saved’.
So while everyone managed to jump in and save this unlucky young bear, the industry overall seems to be missing a real opportunity to help both bears and fill our empty zoos. This winter, Martin Obbard wrote a heartfelt piece called a ‘Tale of Two Bears’ for Polar Bears International. In it, he talks about how one bear fell victim to climate change and died before the ice came back, presumably her cubs starved as well.
There is something really telling about that whole piece. Obbard comments that when the radio collar stopped transmitting, they simply assumed it had failed or fallen off. It really is quite surprising that ‘dead bear’ never came to mind; in fact, it seems that most radio collar anomalies are chalked up to anything other than mortalities – but that’s another story…
What is a real shame is that this polar bear died of (probably) natural causes on Akimiski Island, a fairly accessible island in southeastern Hudson Bay. Instead of hiring a helicopter or snowmobile to go check it out, the researchers just sat back and made assumptions. With a modest effort, someone could have gone out and checked on that radio collared bear; maybe we save her cubs and relocate them to a life in the zoo – a good news story all around. Too bad no one thought of it, I would much rather see that type of solution rather than every problem bear from Churchill flown south – as long as they are young and good-looking, of course.
Either way, the speed and lack of real consultation has put Churchill off a bit. A lot of folks in town are certainly skeptical of the International Polar Bear Conservancy Centre and the zoos lining up for polar bears. It remains baffling how an ‘International Polar bear Conservancy Centre’ did not get built in Churchill… then again, polar bear scientists and such probably can’t afford the cost of vegetables and gas up here. And the winters are cold too… probably better to fly the bears south because we all know that no bear will ever be released ‘back’ into the wild.
Anyway, thats depressing so back to business… The latest edition of the Hudson Bay Post is off to the printers today – Churchill monthly newspaper published every few years… Should be a gooder. NBC is coming up with a reality film crew from October 21 to November 7th to film a one hour pilot, that sounds fun – still, a reality show should have been launched about seven years ago, some crazy stuff has happened since then! Omnitrax’s oil plans are still floating around out there, you can see another battle brewing for next summer.
That’s about it for now – will be back up in Churchill next weekend to get bear season rolling!