Some call Andy McPherson, "The Polar Bear Whisperer," but this Canadian wildlife guide refutes the claim indicating he can't "Doolittle with the Bears!" Instead he's manage to manage the unmanageable - he's come up with techniques to keep those frisky critters "off balance."
"Polar bears are intelligent, curious, and socially complex," notes McPherson, though there are several instinctive responses to humans approaching, and each bear has his own contextual personality and reaction. If they deem approaching vehicles, or a walking group, threatening, they might turn and run. Or they might charge. But once a response kicks-in, it is near impossible to stop. So, "if kept disoriented," Andy postulates,"they won't decide on an action, but will wait for more information."
"Each time we interact with a bear we have the opportunity to add either positive or negative experiences to her toolbox," he softly explains. "And that accumulation of knowledge affects the bear's decision-making process."
They're master predators, the largest land carnivores on the planet, top of the food chain and are often very hungry! They feast on ice-breeding seals throughout the winter months, traverse Churchill, Manitoba, "the polar bear capital of the world." and hunt from floating icebergs on Hudson Bay - often referred to, as "The Cold Ocean."
But when the ice breaks in July, sleuths of bears come ashore and wait. There are some berries and birds, and the occasional whale carcass that washes up onto the sand. But mostly the bears survive off stored fat reserves and wait for the ice to come back mid-November. It's considered the longest period of food deprivation of any mammal on earth!
Man must DO LOTS more for the Polar Bears
Today the Hudson Bay population—and the rest of the world's 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears—is being affected by climate change. Since 1979, sea ice cover has declined by about 30 percent in the Arctic. As greenhouse gases continue to warm the Earth, polar bears are being forced ashore for longer periods of time.
By the population coming ashore each year, Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International says, "they're relatively easy to count." For instance, "searching for a white bear on green grass and brown rocks is easier than searching for [it] out on the white sea ice."
Because polar bears depend on a habitat "that literally melts as temperatures rise," Amstrup says, "they are perhaps the most vulnerable of any species to a warming world."
If nothing changes, two-thirds of all polar bears will be gone by 2050, and perhaps extinct in the wild by the end of the century.
The best way to ensure polar bear survival would be to curtail the rise of greenhouse gas emissions. Amstrup believes the only effective way to do that would be to charge a tax for the carbon dioxide that humans are emitting.
"It's not just an ecological problem," Amstrup said. It's "an economic problem. We have to remember that humans are not just observers of ecology; we're participants in it. Everything is connected. What we do in our economy directly influences the ecology of the earth."
The polar bear is an indicator species for the Arctic ecosystem. The impact of climate change is so significant that what polar bears are experiencing today in Churchill -- may be man's problem as a species tomorrow! If that isn't a reason to do lots more - perhaps you need a polar bear to whisper it into your ear!