While visiting the tiny little village of Churchill with WWF & Natural Habitat Adventures, we were lucky enough to witness a “polar bear lift,” a critical tool in the polar bear conservation toolbox—and one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Polar bear conservation is serious business in Churchill: interactions between polar bears and Churchill’s 813 year-round residents and many seasonal visitors could be deadly for both species. We saw polar bear conservation teams constantly patrolling the town’s streets, helping to keep bears and humans safe by using benign methods such as firecrackers or flares to discourage bears away from Churchill’s town limits and its residents. The few bears who don’t get the message and continue to return to town, are carefully sedated and moved to a holding facility, where they are kept until a helicopter can transfer them to more ideal polar bear habitat further away from town.
The sight of such a massive, stately creature gliding smoothly towards its new home, struck me as an incredibly hopeful one. Rather than allowing conflict to burgeon between communities and wildlife, WWF helps communities live safely and harmoniously with polar bears by encouraging similarly innovative ways to prevent human-wildlife conflict. These polar bear lifts are one example of how we can think outside the box to make sure humans and polar bears coexist for generations to come.