A Skinny Problem Bear

7/6/2011 12:46:44 PM

A Skinny Problem Bear

Manitoba Conservation has by far the most comprehensive "problem polar bear" management program in the world, successfully dealing with dozens of bears each year. Nonetheless, there are times when options are limited. Last Monday, a skinny adult male that wandered into the town of Churchill was killed by conservation officers due to the danger he posed to the community.

Skinny bear on shoreline rocks

Most bears leave at the sound of deterrents like cracker shots. This one didn't. Instead, he headed straight into town, running through backyards and down streets. When conservation officers drove up in a truck, the bear charged the vehicle and then rammed the windows of the Town Centre. The aggressive behavior was so unusual that officers plan to test the bear for rabies. 

Placing a bear this skinny into the town's holding facility wasn't an option because he didn't have enough stored fat to wait five months without feeding—and feeding would lead him to associate humans with food. The bear was reported to weigh in far below normal for an adult male of 17 years. At this age, the bear is just a bit past his prime.

The poor condition of this bear raises some questions:

  • Is he just one of the bears on the low end of the weight variation--or Is he representative of the population this year?
  • Did he spend too much time focusing on mating and not enough time looking for seals?

His poor condition is a concern. As our studies have shown, it doesn't take much of a shift in the break-up dates to have serious consequences for the western Hudson Bay polar bears. We'll have to wait for more reports on the condition of the bears before we can assess the effects of the late 2010 freeze-up and early 2011 break-up.

Photo ©Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures.

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