- Issue: Winter 2013
From October through December, Leo Ikakhik works the night shift. For eight hours he patrols the tiny hamlet of Arviat, on Canada’s western Hudson Bay, watching for polar bears. Arviat hired this experienced hunter to keep bears from coming into town—not by shooting them, but by using spotlights and noisemakers to chase them away.
Ikakhik is a polar bear monitor, part of a WWF-supported project that aims to reduce conflict between people and bears. In recent years, Arviat’s residents have seen an increase in bears coming into town. These bears are forced to spend more time on land due to longer periods of open water and lack of sea ice hunting grounds. Meanwhile, nearby human populations are growing, and come with more temptations for hungry bears, such as garbage and sled dogs. The WWF-Arviat project provides new deterrents—steel food storage bins, better garbage management, and electrified fences around sled dog pens—and pays Ikakhik, who helps keep everyone safe.
In Arviat, eight polar bears were killed in 2010, and three in 2011, in defense of life and property. But in 2012, not a single bear was killed. The measures taken by the people and government have worked—a success story WWF hopes to replicate in other Arctic communities.
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