FIRE IN THE BELLY

Elle (Canada) - - Escape -

Each night at dusk, our Tun­dra Buggy would dock with our spacestation-on-wheels lodge, which was parked in prime bearview­ing ter­ri­tory. Af­ter din­ner, Am­strup would tell us more about the cu­ri­ous habits of the bears. He ex­plained how in­cred­i­bly mo­bile bears can be. Ra­dio col­lars have re­vealed ranges of 600,000 square kilo­me­tres— larger than the Por­cu­pine cari­bou herd’s—and how one fe­male bear swam 687 kilo­me­tres over a nine-day stretch, likely search­ing for ice from which to hunt. “She lost 20 per­cent of her body weight dur­ing that swim—and her year­ling cub,” he ex­plained. “The bears would much rather walk than go in the wa­ter.” Am­strup spent 30 years study­ing po­lar bears in Alaska be­fore shift­ing his fo­cus to con­ser­va­tion ad­vo­cacy in 2010. “There is still re­search to do, but we know so much al­ready. None of it mat­ters if we don’t stop the rise in green­house-gas emis­sions, which is caus­ing a rise in tem­per­a­tures. If we don’t, we’re go­ing to be po­lar-bear his­to­ri­ans.” Still, Am­strup doesn’t think the species is nec­es­sar­ily doomed, and nei­ther does Alysa McCall, a 28-year-old staff sci­en­tist at PBI who has spent sev­eral sea­sons col­lar­ing and track­ing the western Hud­son Bay bears. “I’m not sure how hope­ful I am for the Hud­son Bay sea ice,” she said. “I’m wor­ried for th­ese bears but hope­ful for bears as a whole.”

The Tun­dra Buggy Lodge is kit­ted out with Hud­son’s Bay blan­kets.

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