On This Small Remote Island, The locals Are Preparing For Polar Bears To Invade Their Village.

Polar Bears. Photo by Steven Kazlowski.

Polar Bears. Photo by Steven Kazlowski.

Barter Island is an island located on the Arctic coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is about four miles (6 km) long and about two miles (3 km) wide at its widest point, there is a village called Kaktovik with a population of about 300 people.

Around August polar bears start to arrive on this small remote island leaving around October. Locals have got used to living amongst them, and there is even a Polar bear patrol that patrols the village for any bears that have wandered up and chase them away.

Around August each year, three bowhead whales are hunted and divided between the natives. The remains of whale are left for polar bears to scavenge on.

According to ICUN Redlist, the species is listed as Vulnerable, and the population is decreasing. There are estimated to be 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears worldwide living in 19 populations.

The Arctic may appear to be a barren place, it is, in fact, an ecosystem that is booming with life both above and below the ice.

Photo by Karoline Hood.Barter Islands.

Photo by Karoline Hood.Barter Islands.

If the sea ice disappears due to climate change, so does the polar bear and many other creatures that depend on this ice. The loss of multiple Arctic species could have effects on both the environment and humans.

Large carnivores such as polar bears are indicators of ecosystem health. A polar bear at risk is often a sign of something wrong somewhere in the Arctic marine ecosystem.

Todd Atwood Research is a Wildlife Biologist and Project Leader, USGS Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK

Todd has studied polar bears, and there are a lot of issues that affect them such as pathogens and diseases and contaminant and Arctic warming.

Photo courtesy of Todd Atwood.

Photo courtesy of Todd Atwood.

Todd explains that Humans have inadvertently affected the lives of polar bears through pollution and global warming. As a result, their natural habitat continues to be destroyed, for example, the icy waters of the Arctic region continue to melt.

Polar bears live in the Arctic which is a harsh environment, their food which is primary seals, is under the ice, and the ice is continually changing and moving, they know their food is under the ice which is also always moving, so looking for food is not easy.

"Not just in Alaska but other parts of the Arctic we are seeing more bears coming to shore for more extended periods of time, being attracted to areas where people live, because they are nutritionally stressed, they are modifying their behaviour to deal with the conditions they been presented with," explains Todd.

The polar bear region covers a large area, so you see different behaviours patterns in polar bears across their range. The polar bears in Canada's western, southern Hudson Bay region and a few other regions have historically lost most of the sea ice in the summer, so they have developed a behaviour where the entire subpopulation come to shore waiting for the ice to return in the fall. The rest of the arctic the primary behaviour of the polar bears was to remain on the sea ice year-round because the ice was present year round. One of the areas where the sea ice was present year-round is the Barter Islands. They would stay on the ice unless they were coming to shore to Den, now they're coming to shore which is a behaviour modification.

While some bears come to shore vast majority stay on the remaining sea ice year-round as it retracts to deeper waters. Todd explains, "we do not know which bears are making the best choice the ones that stay on the remaining ice and have the opportunity to catch some seals or the ones that come to the island and scavenge on the whale carcass left by the whalers."

Photo by Karoline Hood.Foggy day in the Barter islands. Bowhead whale remains.

Photo by Karoline Hood.Foggy day in the Barter islands. Bowhead whale remains.

Other threats

Unhealthy bears can lead to lower reproduction rates and local population extinction. The leading cause of death for cubs is either lack of food or lack of fat on nursing mothers.

The oil exploration and gas business are increasingly moving into the Arctic. Contact with oil spills can reduce the insulating effect of the bears' fur. The bear must then use more energy to keep warm and compensate by increasing its calorie intake, and they can also ingest oil through grooming and through eating contaminated prey.


16 Simple ways to make a difference.

1. Reduce using Fuel.

Take public transportation, or look into purchasing an electric or hybrid car as your next vehicle.

2. Turn Off The Lights.

when your not in the room.

3. Unplug Your Devices

All electronics suck energy when they’re plugged in. Although they can initially cost more than traditional incandescent bulbs, during their lifetime, they save you money, because they use less energy.

4. Reduce The Garbage You Generate.

A. Buy secondhand. Consider second-hand clothing there are some great thrift stores around.

B. Don't buy fast, disposable fashion

C. Reduce your consumption of products with excess packaging and plastic. Consider buying more bulk and reusing containers.

D. Don't buy bottled water, use reusable bottles.

E. Don't use straws,

F. Use reusable travel cups for tea and coffee as billions of "disposable" cups are thrown away each year, you will also save money.

G. Bring your own bags to the grocery store.

5. Use Water Efficiently.

We can all think of ways of not wasting water from taking short and less frequent showers to being mindful of water waste when brushing your teeth.

6. Line-Dry Or Hang dry your Clothes

Line-drying your clothing is much better for the environment. One dryer load uses five times more electricity than washing than line-drying your clothes, you will also save money

7. Cut Fish Out Or Buy Ocean-Friendly Fish.

One of the easiest things you can do to help take pressure off of overexploited fisheries is to learn about which seafood items are “ocean-friendly”. You can download and print a seafood guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/consumer-guides

8. Stop Eating (or Eat Less) Meat

The single most effective action you can take to combat climate change is to stop eating meat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the meat industry alone accounts for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

9. Stop using Palm Oil.

Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit. The industry is linked to major issues such as deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced, as the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations

Palm oil-based products can be identified through these names:

Cetyl Palmitate and Octyl Palmitate

Elaeis Guineensis (Taxonomic name for palm oil)

Hexadecylic or Palmitic Acid

Hydrated Palm Glycerides

Palm Oil Kernal



Anything with Palmitate at the end

Likely to be palm oil:

Cetearyl Alcohol

Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 470-8, 481-483, 493-5

Glyceryl Stearate

Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)

Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye

Sodium Laureth Sulphate

Sodium Lauryl Sulphates

Steareth – 2 & Steareth – 20

Stearic Acid Vegetable Oil

10. Offset Your Carbon Emissions

You can also neutralise all or part of your greenhouse gas emissions by investing in carbon mitigation projects. The idea is to pay an organisation that will tangibly and verifiably curb its own GHG emissions to neutralise yours and make you carbon neutral. The process is known as carbon offsetting. The offsetting is achieved through the purchase of carbon credits. Each credit represents one tonne of carbon dioxide.

11. Support Marine Protect Areas

Did you know that barely 5% of our oceans are protected? According to the UN, we need to protect at least 10% by 2020 if we want to maintain our planet’s ecological integrity.

12. Plant A Tree Or Help Restore A Wetland.

Clearance of land including trees and wetlands have contributed to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Research where you can plant a tree, or plant a native tree on your property.

13. Support A Carbon Tax.

Carbon is present in every hydrocarbon fuel (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) and is released as carbon dioxide (CO2) when they are burned. A carbon tax is usually defined as a tax based on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) generated from burning fuels. It puts a price on each tonne of GHG emitted, sending a price signal that will, over time, elicit a powerful market response across the entire economy, resulting in reduced emissions.

14. Use Your Investor Power.If you are lucky enough to own shares in companies, you have the option of investing in companies whose climate change policies you approve of and you can also divest (sell) shares of companies whose climate change policies you disapprove of, and most importantly, you can use your voice and vote on company policies as a shareholder.

15. Be Mindful Of Hazardous Materials.

Motor oil and other hazardous materials often end up washing into coastal areas because they aren't disposed of properly. This pollutes the water and hurts the overall health of our oceans. Be sure to dispose of hazardous materials in an environmentally-safe way.

16. Make A Donation


Travel Blog.

My stay in Barter Island.


I arrived in Barter Island in a nine-seater plane from Fairbanks , I am used to New York winters, but this was bitter cold, even in August. I was picked up by a lady driving a school bus and taken on a short drive to my hotel.