Sunday, November 20, 2011
ABC News’ Ron Claiborne reports: They are magnificent, captivating somehow, even magical. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada calls itself, “the polar bear capital of the world.” On a wind-blasted, icy tundra hundreds of polar bears come out of their summer-long torpor and head to shores of Hudson Bay waiting for the water to freeze over so they can go out on the ice to hunt seals. But, sometimes a polar bear will come right into Churchill. Wayward bears who wander into town get “arrested” captured and taken to “bear jail.” After several days of incarceration, they’re taken out, tranquilized and blindfolded, in case they wake up too soon Then they’re air-lifted away to the wilderness. “What’s happening is we’ve had successive years where the sea ice in the bay has melted much earlier, so bears are coming ashore much earlier in poorer condition and coming into town more often,” said Geoff York, a polar bear expert and head of arctic species conservation for the World Wildlife Fund, which is leading research into the bear’s habits and habitats. It is backed by a $2 million grant from Coca-Cola. York said earth’s warming climate means it takes longer for the ice on Hudson Bay to form and it is thawing earlier meaning a shorter period when polar bears are be out on the ice, feeding. Without enough to eat, they may not last the summer. “Polar bears are definitely threatened, and they’re threatened by habitat that now is shrinking on both ends,” York said. They’re hungry because they haven’t had anything to eat since coming off the ice last July. And once again this year, the ice has been late forming. “We’re late getting them to their meal this year and they were early getting off. Their meal window is shrinking on both ends,” York said. To find out more on how to help the polar bears, go to the World Wildlife Fund and ArcticHome.com Click here to see a video clip Polar Bear in Churchill, Manitoba.