Travel This Alaskan Town Is Being Overrun by Polar Bears and Tourists

17:50  19 november  2017
17:50  19 november  2017 Source:   Condé Nast Traveler

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Tourists flock to this coastal Alaskan town to photograph the vulnerable icons—raising hairy ethical questions. A stone’s throw is as close as I ever want to be , knowing polar bears can run down a horse at a short distance and kill a half-tonne walrus.

Several oil workers in Alaska and tourist visiting northern Norway have been killed by polar bears . In the mid 1990s two people, neither of them tourists , were killed by polar bears . An unarmed woman was killed while hiking near Longyearbyen in Svalbard

a polar bear in a body of water © Getty

The Alaskan town of Kaktovik has a population of fewer than 250 people, but at this time of year, it receives a wave of visitors—first polar bears, then tourists.

Located on Barter Island, off the state's northern coast on the Beaufort Sea, Kaktovik isn't used to this kind of attention. Every fall, polar bears wander into the village looking for food, and over the last few years, they've been coming earlier and earlier, reports ABC News. The reason? Global warming.

As the sea ice they depend on melts and disappears, the polar bears have been looking for alternate places to feed. One such source is what Kaktovik residents call "the bone pile," an area on the island's shore where generations of whale hunters have left bone carcasses. While the townspeople rely on the whales to survive (they're allowed to hunt three whales per year), the polar bears come for the leftover bones.

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Alaskan Cruises. “They say they are going to Preikestolen and understand nothing.” Sometimes minibuses full of tourists line up outside the town , only to turn around.

For centuries polar bears have been an enduring symbol of the area but recently they've begun to change their habitat. Many descending on a small remote northern alaskan island.

The hungry, wandering polar bears are a huge problem for residents, who've created a local patrol to search the streets when the bears typically arrive at dusk. The town has subsequently experienced an unwelcome bout of tourism. Kaktovik is a two-hour flight from Fairbanks and only accessible by small planes; similar to whale-watching, tourists take chartered boats to catch glimpses of the bears. While the residents know how to handle and approach the bears, the visitors do not. "There are some people that just come on here and try to go out to the bone pile or walk themselves," Kaktovik's mayor Nora Jane Burns told ABC News. "They don't really understand they are wild animals and their demeanor can change just like that. If they get mauled or killed, it is on us."

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The mainly Russian tourists had just departed from a stopover on the island on a cruise from Mumansk to the region of Chukotka, close to the US state of Alaska . Polar picnic: There were at least 230 polar bears , including single males, single females

The polar bear problem is one such example of how Alaska has been affected by climate change. The natural beauty of its wilderness makes it a tourist destination, but changes in coastal erosion, sea ice retreat, and permafrost melt are putting the state, its people, and its wildlife, at risk.

ALSO WATCH: Kayakers have close encounter with polar bears


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