Polar bear wanders 100 miles from shore

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Security personnel on the Dalton Highway got a surprise visit recently from a wayward polar bear.

The young, skinny polar bear evidently wandered more than 100 miles down the highway from the Beaufort Sea. That's the farthest inland that biologists who study the animals have seen a polar bear travel, said Scott Schliebe, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.

Dan Moody, a building maintenance foreman with the Depart-ment of Transportation, saw the bear on Monday night at about 10 p.m. when he and fellow maintenance foreman Schipman Kim pulled into the Sag River maintenance station about five miles south of Pump Station 3.

Moody leaned out the window of the truck and snapped some pictures of the bear. At one point, he was only about 15 feet away.

''He just kind of ambled up to the truck and wandered off the side of the road,'' Moody said.

The bear was seen two days earlier by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. security workers at Pump Station 3, said Alyeska communications manager Curtis Thomas. The bear didn't cause any trouble and simply appeared to be curious about what was inside the fence surrounding the facility.

Polar bears commonly travel inland but don't usually go more than 20 or 30 miles, biologists said.

Young polar bears are more apt to make long inland movements than older, more experienced bears, because they don't know any better, Schliebe said.

The bear is probably just a young, curious bear that's attracted to the sights and smells of the camps.

Schliebe said there have been numerous reports this year of polar bears headed inland. The move could be in response to the fact that the Arctic Ocean pack ice is farther off shore this summer than it has been in 50 years.

The ice pack was 170 miles from Kaktovik and 290 miles from Barrow at the end of September. The lack of ice may be hindering bears' hunting efforts.

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