Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Polar bear jail awaits invading polar bears


There was a period in the '70s when any polar bear wandering into town was shot on sight. Not so today. Bears that slip into town after managing to evade the 'polar bear police' on the town's outskirts are either darted or lured into a trap baited with a delectably fragrant cloth doused in whale or seal oil. From there the bears are transported to the 'polar bear jail', a huge metal enclosure just steps from Churchill's Lilliputian airport.

On my recent visit to Churchill for a bear watching safari the jail was already temporary home to ten miscreants. In 2005, 58 polar bears passed through its accommodations.

The polar bears, kept in cubicles in solitary confinement for 30 days, are fed a diet (or non-diet) that can only be described as bland. No seal meat, no whale blubber, not even a kelp snack, only water in the form of snow.

Life in the jail was not always so spartan for these gigantic carnivores. At first bears were given 'tasty meals', but the town soon discovered its mistake. The wily animals returned the following year for a comfortable wait and regular feeding at 'Hotel Polar Bear' (the jail) until the waters of Hudson Bay froze over allowing them to hunt. It seemed that hard labor was the only answer.

More to follow on a 'Town under Siege' ...

Images copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Tuesday, 30th November, 2010


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