How to fight off a polar bear when traveling in the arctic? HAHA! Joke. You can’t.
However, there are some things you can do that will help increase your odds of survival… (file this under “Fun Things You Learn Along the Way”):
Not all is lost should you be wandering in the arctic and encounter a cute yet fierce, flesh-loving bear. So, in an arctic PSA, here are some things to do when in polar bear country that will lessen your chances of becoming an ursine lunch:
- Always carry bear spray. It’s like mace but for bears. Apparently, according to several Air Greenland pilots I’ve talked to, it works. However, you have to be pretty close and upwind for it to work properly. So – good luck!
- You should probably carry a gun. Now listen, no one wants to shoot a polar bear – they’re endangered for chrissakes! – but, it’s preferable to becoming a light snack (because most of us, unless we are featured on a TLC special or between the pages of People magazine, aren’t fatty enough to be a full meal polar bear meal – although I suppose if we’re talking about People I should say fatuous). Just make sure you have good aim when they come close because the only thing worse than a hungry polar bear is a pissed off, wounded, hungry polar bear.
- There is no way you can out run a polar bear – however, they are, according to word of mouth, easily distractible. “They’re very curious,” my Greenlandic pal Sara said. On that note, should you come face to face with one, back away (slowly at first), while peeling off your clothes one item at a time. The bears are very curious so they should stop, sniff and perhaps play with each item as they come across it, leaving you free to run somewhere across the arctic buck naked. Until they catch up with you, of course. Or you die of exposure. Either way – what an experience!
- My pal, photographer Ken Bower, camped out at the abandoned Army Air Force base Bluie East 2 for a week two years ago and, to avoid polar bears – set up camp a mile up a mountain. Because polar bears don’t go inland that often and prefer to stay by the sea, Ken is still in one piece. Go Ken!
- Travel in an armed truck or stay inside whatever vehicle took you to the arctic (preferably not one that is inflatable and can be pierced by claws or teeth).
Now, go – have fun! Spot those polar bears – just don’t get too close and if you do, make me a rug, please.