Living with Polar Bears

Living with Polar Bears

In Manitoba, residents experience the wonder and caution of sharing space with one of nature's deadliest carnivores. 

By Jake MacDonald
Published: 12/20/2011

"Ten years old at least. A thousand pounds. They've been around. It's the young bears you have to worry about. They come over the hill like teenagers swaggering into a bar. They'll walk up, and swat the dogs. They have no balance. They haven't learned yet. The older bears like this spot because it's prime territory, and I like having them here because they run the young ones off."

"How do these ones get along with the dogs?"

"Pretty well, but it's random. They get used to each other and then the barriers drop. Some hate each other. Others want to make contact but they don't know how. I've seen the bears come right up and lay down with the dogs and sleep with them. It's like a slot machine."

"What if I was here by myself and I stumbled into these guys?"

"They would woof a warning, then approach you. At that point you'd be smart to throw a mitten down and back off."

"Then what?"

"Maybe they'd sniff it, give you time to get away. You don't want to run. That turns them on, gets a predatory response. You know what works the best? Peeing on the ground. That keeps them sniffing for quite a while." He laughs. "Sometimes it's not that easy trying to pee when a big bear is walking toward you."

Excerpted from In Bear Country: Adventures Among North America's Largest Predators, by Jake MacDonald. Lyons Press, 272 pages, $18.95.

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