“There’s a bear at Dump Beach” came over the radio as Amanda and Erinn got ready to leave. They were prepared. Their kit includes binoculars, radio, 12 gauge shotgun (bear gun), and a lot of nerve. All they want to do is sample water in small ponds near the edge of Hudson Bay. But in order to do that, they frequently have to run a gauntlet of polar bears – or lose a day of sampling.
The shoreline can be a dangerous place this time of the year. The Hudson Bay ice pack is melting quickly and bears are swimming to land and summer dens. The polar bear is the largest of the land carnivores, but this doesn’t make them slow. They are fast swimmers and can run at over 25 MPH. Time and distance to the sanctuary of a car are important. Much more important than having to shoot a bear.
Amanda and Erinn approach their research site by road; followed by a short walk across tundra and boulders. They blow the horn and stop to scan for bears frequently. Hopefully, a slumbering bear will pop up and run away. The all-clear is given, but the distance to the research site is measured in the minutes it will take to get back to the car.
For eight weeks now, they have returned to the same site to take samples and conduct their experiments. At times, bears were already there and research was put on hold. And, there have been a few close calls when bears have emerged from the Bay causing them to scamper back to the car and safety.
In spite of the danger, they stay dedicated to their work, returning to the site day after day, running the gauntlet of bears.