Alaska had its first fatal polar bear attack in 30 years in Jan. 2023, as a bear killed a mother and her one-year-old son in Wales, a remote whaling village, and experts say the number of encounters between humans and bears is on the rise because of rising global temperatures.
Rising temperatures have affected life all over the globe, but they are especially bad news for polar bears, whose livable habitat has shrunk as ice melts into the ocean. Researchers say the bears are dying at an alarming rate.
That, in turn, is bad news for the people who live in proximity to these bears. As the polar bears’ space to hunt, live, and reproduce shrinks, they are driven inland toward humans, increasing the number of encounters.
As reported by the Associated Press, authorities investigating the mauling said they intend “to learn from this tragedy and determine what future measures we and our communities can take to prevent future fatal human-bear encounters.”
Why are increased encounters concerning?
The AP detailed how places in Alaska and Canada have stepped up their bear patrols to help keep citizens safe. However, while these patrols are clearly necessary, they do not address the underlying reason bear encounters have increased. As long as temperatures continue to rise, we can expect more of these animals to venture toward towns.
In addition, scientists have found that bears are eating plastic, which causes health problems and possibly makes them more aggressive. Two bears found with significant amounts of plastic in their stomachs were highly aggressive and “did not respond to polar bear deterrent measures.”
What can be done about it?
Combating rising global temperatures means, first and foremost, halting the production of products from dirty energy sources such as gas and oil and turning instead to clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar.
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