by Arctic reporter, Joanie Simpson
Last night, a polar bear was seen in the small Arctic town of Southridge. Sheriff Bob Williams warned that people need to take extra care especially if they're out at night. "Polar bears don't usually attack people unless they're protecting their cubs or if they're hungry," he said. "But people still need to be careful. This bear was probably looking for food. Polar bears are becoming a real problem around here."
Local resident Fred Packer runs Polar Wildlife Tours. He takes tourists to see the polar bears in their habitat at Point Southridge. "Polar bears are magnificent animals. When I take a group of people on a tour, they're always amazed at how graceful the bears are. But I can see trouble ahead. Global warming has damaged the polar bears' habitat. Every year there is less and less ice. At this time of year, polar bears wander inland looking for food. We need to protect the bears. There is nowhere else for them to go."
Eva Long of the Arctic Wildlife Society agrees. "Polar bears have been living here for a lot longer than people. We shouldn't build towns in their habitat and then expect them to move away." In 1973, a law was passed that kept people from hunting polar bears. Since then, the number of polar bears has increased. "That's great news," Long says.
Ed Epplett owns Epplett Engineering, one of Southridge's largest businesses. He's worried about the number of polar bears near Southridge. "These bears are bad for business. My workers are out on different jobs every day. I need to know that they're safe. I've been talking to the council about having the bears moved to an area near Lake Vernon. If we want Southridge to grow, people must feel safe."
A meeting will be held to discuss the problem next Tuesday at 7:00 P.M. at the town hall.