Polar bears spend most of their time on sea ice where they hunt for food. Unfortunately, due to melting ice and human development, the polar bear habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate. Without sea ice, polar bears cannot successfully hunt, mate, or raise their cubs.
Reducing Human-Wildlife Conflict
The Problem: For decades, Churchill, Manitoba has been known as the “polar bear capital of the world.” However, as the sea ice along the Hudson River has diminished, the polar bear population has diminished with it. In fact, the Canadian Wildlife Service has estimated that there has been more than a 20% decline in Polar Bear numbers at the Hudson Bay over the last 30 years. Because the time between ice melt and ice formation has lengthened, hungry polar bears are being pushed to the limits of their fat reserves. And, with each passing winter, they wander closer and closer to Churchill to seek out alternative food sources.
Our Solution: Over the past few years, Utah’s Hogle Zoo and partners have worked tirelessly with Churchill’s Polar Bear Task Force to develop an early detection system for approaching wildlife. This system was first tested on bears at Alaska Zoo to determine how polar bears would appear on the radar screen. Then, in October 2019, a Utah-manufactured, military grade radar was installed on the rooftop of Churchill’s community center. This detection radar, paired with several high-quality cameras, provides residents of Churchill with long-distance warning signals 24 hours a day. It is hoped that, eventually, this detection system can be used to deter polar bears from approaching human settlements, resulting in less human-wildlife conflict over time.
As an Arctic Ambassador Centre (AAC), Utah’s Hogle Zoo (UHZ) is committed to reducing carbon emissions on both an institutional and communal level. We strive to combat climate change through action and education. The zoo is home to two young polar bears who serve as ambassadors for their species and are used to educate the public in an impactful way.
The “Climate Alliance” is a group of like-minded organizations that are leading the effort to reduce CO2 in their communities. These institutions engage in online learning and train with experts, developing action plans to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases around them.
The Conservation Director at Utah’s Hogle Zoo (UHZ) has been collaborating with PBI to grow the Climate Alliance program since 2016. She is also the institutional representative for the Bear Taxon Advisory Group.