The small Alaskan town of Kaktovik is seeing more polar bears wandering in, searching for food, and as a result, more tourists flocking to catch a glimpse of them.
“If they (the tourists) get mauled or killed, it is on us,” Kaktovik Mayor Nora Jane Burns told ABC News.
Housing less than 250 people, Kaktovik is a remote village on the northern coast of Alaska near the Beaufort Sea that, thanks to global warming and melting sea ice, has seen more and more polar bears each fall. With less ice the bears’ hunting grounds have all but been eliminated in the region, forcing them south into the town to scavenge for scraps.
The villagers’ “bone pile” supplies them with ample food. The pile consists of whale carcasses left behind by local hunters who are allowed to hunt three per year, a tradition essential to their survival for generations.
With the increased number of the all-white mammals, the hamlet is also experiencing a high influx of unwelcomed tourists.
“There are some people that just come on here and try to go out to the bone pile or walk themselves,” Burns told ABC. “They don’t really understand they are wild animals and their demeanor can change just like that.”
Kaktovik is difficult to get to and requires visitors to take a two-hour flight in a small plane from Fairbanks and then hop a chartered boat to the shoreline where the bears feast in order to see them.