Story at a glance
- Churchill is a small city in the Canadian province of Manitoba and it’s famous for being the polar bear capital of the world.
- In an effort to combat climate change and protect polar bears, one touring company is converting it’s fleet of buggies to be completely battery powered.
- Polars bears are facing a deadly future as climate change has drastically cut into the animals' feeding and hunting cycle.
A small town in Canada that’s known as the world’s ‘polar bear capital’ is trying to save its furry white creatures from climate change by changing how people navigate the region.
Frontiers North Adventures announced it converted its first diesel fueled buggy, a massive four-wheeler used for tours to spot polar bears, into a battery powered vehicle. The tour company hopes to convert the rest of its fleet to all electric motors, which is estimated to save over 3,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 25 years.
Frontiers North Adventures operates in Churchill, a city within the Canadian province of Manitoba, and is known as the world’s polar bear capital because of its high concentration of bears. In Canada, there are 13 populations of polar bears, totaling about 15,000 bears.
The city is grappling with climate change, as the period of time polars bears wait for ice sheets to form on the Hudson Bay so they can begin hunting for food has grown dangerously long. Polar bears don’t eat in the months leading up to winter in anticipation of the ice formations.
Andrew Derocher, a professor of biology at the University of Alberta, told The Guardian, “We’re not getting the good years of sea ice formation that we used to have. We’re getting bad years and okay years. When you do that over a long enough period of time, you can expect that your population is going to decline.”
Due to a warming climate, when ice formation does eventually happen, it breaks up earlier in the season. That forces polar bears to have a shorter hunting window and they end up returning to land weeks earlier than normal.
Polar bears have lost an estimated 12 days of ice on either end of the winter season over the past decade, according to The Guardian.
Currently, scientists believe there are only 26,000 polar bears left on Earth, and even if climate change mitigation efforts are implemented, it may not be enough to save the struggling species.
“There’s no easy fix. We can’t just put a park somewhere. And while it’s a nice idea and indicative of the kind of solutions we need, an electric tundra buggy isn’t going to save the world.The only levers that we have left that we can pull are the human behavior ones,” Derocher told The Guardian.
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