Increasing bear/human conflict needs government intervention, say experts



Posted on 01 March 2013  | 
Participants at the WWF-sponsored Polar Bear Human Conflict Workshop in Tromso, Norway, February 2013.
© Tine Marie HagelinEnlarge
Hungry, climate-stressed polar bears are increasingly coming into conflict with people in some regions -- and nations will need to work together to fund and implement ways to keep both bears and people safe.

That's the conclusion of more than 30 leading polar bear experts from throughout the Arctic, who met this week at a WWF-organized polar bear/human conflict workshop in Tromsø, Norway.

"Polar bears have the capacity to surprise, and we still know relatively little about dealing with polar bear conflict”, said workshop participant Doug Clark of the University of Saskatchewan.

Participants agreed the polar bear range states -- Canada, Norway, Greenland, Russia and the United States -- should cooperate to fund, monitor and share conflict reduction measures.

“We have an opportunity to develop plans and programs on the ground and across the Arctic ahead of anticipated increases in conflict situations,” says Geoff York, WWF lead on polar bears. “As sea ice habitat continues to decline, more bears will spend longer periods of time onshore and human activities are also projected to increase in the area, setting the stage for trouble in the years ahead.”

Participants shared conflict prevention ideas from around the pole, including:
  • Polar bear patrols engaging local people to help keep bears away from communities
  • Keeping attractants - trash, food - away from settled areas
  • Education on safety measures for living and working around polar bears
  • Deterrent effectiveness and application, like bear spray, non-lethal projectiles and new technologies
  • Physical barriers, like electric and fixed fences, and secure food storage
  • Behavioral approaches to better understand both bear and human dimensions, or to help make bears averse to humans
  • Deterring, relocating, or destroying problem bears.
The Range States polar bear conflict working group, also in attendance, plan to unveil a new data tracking system and draft conflict plan at the the next Polar Bear Range States meeting in Moscow this fall.

WWF recognizes 2013 as the Year of the Polar Bear, and is encouraging the range states to make firm commitments to polar bear conservation at the Moscow meeting.

The Tromsø meeting was partly funded by the joint WWF-Coca-Cola “Arctic Home” campaign.

For more information, contact:
Geoff York, WWF polar bear lead
Email
Mobile (+1) 613 299 2784

Clive Tesar, Head of communications, WWF Global Arctic Programme
Email
Mobile (+1) 613 883 3110

Visit our website at www.panda.org/arctic

About WWF
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Participants at the WWF-sponsored Polar Bear Human Conflict Workshop in Tromso, Norway, February 2013.
© Tine Marie Hagelin Enlarge

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