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Polar bears: Hard to live with, hard to escape


If anyone thought that drunken beach revelers or soccer hooligans could make for a bad time on vacation, they may not have considered a town where the neighbors are polar bears.


The town is Ny-Alesund, on Spitsbergen Island, Norway; it's a former coal-mining town now given over to research. During the winter months, there are only a handful of caretakers maintaining the northernmost permanent human settlement, but in warmer months there are about 150 scientists working for different institutions, as well as a small contingent of adventurous vacationers. 


On arrival, new residents and visitors are given the drill:

  • Don't lock your doors; your neighbors may need to get in
  • If you see a bear, go into the nearest house and call for help
  • Don't wander out of town without a gun.

The bears, who can weigh up to 1300 pounds and sprint at 25 mph, don't hang around town, but range close enough to raise caution; reports that a few days ago, two females and two cubs were feeding on a stranded walrus just 2 miles from town.


Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, which covers an area larger than Switzerland, but has only about 2500 people...and 3000 polar bears.


Photo: Marilyn Jones, from TravelGumbo blog on polar bears in Manitoba. Click HERE!



The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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While they seem cute, polar bears are one of the few animals that actively hunt humans as a food source.  They are quite dangerous and very lethal.


The Norwegian town reminds me of Churchill, Manitoba, another great place to polar bear watch.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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