Global Warming and Polar Bear Attacks

Polar Bear Before AttackCastañeda-Mendez was walking barefoot, halfway across the stream, when Dyer saw something lumbering toward them. “Polar bear!” he shouted. “Get back here! Get back here!” Chase yelled at her husband. “We have a bear!”

The animal was about 150 yards away and walking toward them. Castañeda-Mendez tromped back through the water and the group clustered together on the side of the stream, following the protocol Lagacè had rehearsed with them: Stand together. Make yourself seem big. Make loud noises, especially metal on metal, like the banging of poles.

The bear was larger and had a fuller coat than the female they had seen that morning. Slowly it walked toward them, nose in the air and tongue sticking out, apparently trying to assess the two-legged creatures it had stumbled upon. Despite the group’s banging and shouting, the bear kept coming. While Castañeda-Mendez fired away with his camera, Gross pulled out his flare gun. “I’m gonna shoot,” he told Chase when the bear was within fifty yards. “I think that’s a good idea,” she replied calmly.

The flare shot forward with a flash of light, but the bear kept advancing. It wasn’t until the shell landed in front of the animal, causing a second burst, that the bear turned and took off in a dead run. The group cheered, clapped, and banged their poles together, celebrating their victory. But the bear didn’t go far. It settled on a ledge about 300 yards from their camp and lay there quietly, watching them.

—Sabrina Shankman
In the Jaws of Climate Change (You should read the whole thing!)

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