Alaska group honored for safety efforts by polar bear conservation group
It's no secret the polar bear's living space is getting squeezed. That could cause problems as bears look for places to dine and call home.
Thanks to the efforts of a group of dedicated and safety-conscious people in northern Alaska, the animals, and human residents have coexisted for a remarkably long time.
Now, that work has been recognized.
Wednesday was World Ranger Day, which honors those on the front lines who reinforce that crucial space between communities and wildlife.
Polar Bears International has awarded the North Slope Borough Polar Bear Patrol with its World Ranger Award for keeping a large region from Point Hope to Kaktovik safe. Since 1993, there have been no polar bear attacks there.
"That's an extraordinary track record," said Geoff York, Polar Bears International's Senior Director of Conservation. The nonprofit organization has two headquarter locations in Bozeman, Montana and Winnipeg.
It's no coincidence that the group has kept people safe for so long in what could be a potentially dangerous setting.
"I think it is largely due to these proactive efforts both in safety education and outreach, but also again, these front line polar bear patrollers who are out there on their quads and their vehicles in the middle of the night in good and bad weather, trying to make sure polar bears and people stay a safe distance from each other."
But as climate change continues, so does the threat.
"You're seeing it in spades this summer in Alaska both in just temperatures around the state but also in sea ice," he noted. "What that means for polar bears and other ice-associated species is complex but ultimately negative."
For polar bears, it's a bad sign.
"There's more polar bears onshore for more periods of time because of that sea ice loss."
The group will receive either $2,000 or will have equipment purchased by PBI on their behalf to help continue their efforts.
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