Saturday, April 3, 2010

Don’t let the picture from the airport fool you.

In Kodiak, it always snows the week before Easter. But this has been a very warm year in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, it was in the low teens in November. But in late January, after a few weeks of reaching into the 40’s, some of our trees seemed to put some green back into their tips. It got cold again in March. But by this PM it was well above 35 and all the snow is melting again.

Warm weather is not really kinder to our animals. Here is what we've heard:

1) About a month ago, I read in the local paper that people called about 2 different eagles that were too weak to fly off the ground. Fish and Wildlife Dept was called to help them out and probably take them into rehab. Seems birds do OK with snow, but soaked feathers just don’t keep out the cold. And get so heavy, the birds can’t fly to get a meal.(Similar to the Power Point I sent out by email last year, taken downtown by the useum).

2) On a similar situation, last summer 200 dead walruses were spotted in Icy Cape, 200 miles southwest of Barrow. Seems that with the loss of icebergs, 3,500 walruses came on shore at once. Then, apparently a bear or airplane or some other noise got them scared. A stampede trampled 200 young and slow walruses to death. Similar episodes are being reported on the eastern coast of Russia.

3) And in Kattovik, on the Beafort Sea (along the Artic), polar bears usually come on land in September. It’s a great place to see those white bears. That's because, the natives are allowed to hunt 3 whales per season; after eating the whale meat, they leave the bones on a small spit off the island and the bears come to munch on the left-overs and sleep.

Previously they would swim there form their icebergs only 50-100 miles out to sea. But the icebergs close to land are disappearing, so now they have to swim in from about 300 miles out to sea. They are looking very tired when they reach the island.

The remaining icebergs are out over the Continental Shelf. It is so deep that there is not enough sea life for bears that far out. They are expecting polar bears to disappear in as little as 40 years . I think I know where I will be going for my vacation this year…to take some polar bear pictures.

Here are some pics of one waking up. It is a slide show "video" I made form a brochure advertising a polar bear sightseeing trip. Hope I can get this close when I go. If you don’t hear from me after September, it’s that I got a little too close to a polar bear who had just enough energy to make a special “taco” meal out of me. But imagine how cool those pics would have been!

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