ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Ruby Kaleak's part-time job on polar bear patrol in the village of Kaktovik, Alaska, usually means chasing the animals back to the Beaufort Sea. But she wasn't expecting to shoo one of the biggest bears she's ever seen out of a house last week.
She was on duty Friday in the village of 300 people when a call came over the radio that a bear was inside a doorway, the Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/ZCfpKQ ). Kaleak heard two whispered words: "Qanitchaq, nanuq," which in Inupiat means "arctic entryway, polar bear," referring to the home's narrow covered porch that serves as a barrier to the cold.
"They didn't say where or who," Kaleak said. "I thought that one of the young boys in town was pulling a prank."
Armed with a 12-gauge shotgun that can fire rounds of beanbags, firecrackers or lethal slugs, Kaleak and a co-worker drove to a house where the call may have originated.
That's where she saw a shadow in the home's entryway that made her pause. Then, the head of a big polar bear popped up.
"I was shocked. It was humongous," Kaleak said. "Just the neck and head was half the size of me, and I'm 5 (feet) 2 (inches)."
The bear was feasting on a drum of seal oil in the entryway of 81-year-old Betty Brower's home, said Flora Rexford, Brower's granddaughter.
Brower was home alone and crawled to the radio to call the bear patrol. No one was injured, and the bear fled after Kaleak arrived.
Polar bears' primary habitat is sea ice, where they hunt for seals and other prey. As ice has receded to deep water beyond the continental shelf, more bears are remaining on land to look for food, according to biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The hungry bears are drawn to the village by whale bones left by hunters.
"I think the bears ran out of food to eat at the bone pile," Kaleak said. "There is nothing for them to eat out there."
Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com