The Northern Canadian Town That Has A Prison For Troublesome Polar Bears

Samuel Reason | August 29th, 2019

There is an innovative strategy being deployed in a northern town called Churchill in Manitoba, a province of Canada, to reduce deadly interactions between humans and polar bears. They have set up a polar bear prison for rogue polar bears.

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Known as the Polar Bear Alert Program, they use helicopters and powerful tranquilizer darts to pursue polar bears that are known to cause problems. Such as polar bear number 19173, a huge 800-pound male known to smash up people’s porches and even local hospitals in search of tasty garbage. And the bear was constantly on the prowl, causing people to steer clear of the hospital.

Unfortunately, the polar bear had learned that during the ice-free season, garbage was a viable food source. So polar bear 19173 believes garbage is his found source. When they catch a bear, by using a tranquilizer dart while staying in a helicopter until the bear is down. Remember polar bears are one of the only predators that do see humans as prey and do not have any fear. The sleeping bear is transported to their Polar Bear Holding Facility., though the nickname is polar bear prison.

Located in the northern capital of the world, Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the globe. The prison is a former military aircraft hangar that has been converted with 28 cells, which first opened in 1981. The idea is that the bears are only fed snow and water for 30 days, this stops them from returning to the town in search of food. They are then let go out on the ice sea, a process known as an ice release.

While the jail might seem a little cruel, it is a conservation effort which could be the model for dealing with polar bears. A program that every northern town may implement at some point. Unfortunately, due to climate change, bears are struggling to find food, which is pushing them closer to urban areas in search of garbage. Manitoba has always had to do things differently, being located on a polar bear migration route, sightings have always happened and encounters happened even in the 1960s.

In the past, the polar bear managers would shoot them dead, but now the tactic is to first attempt to scare them away. And for troublesome polar bears that do not leave, then they put them in prison.

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