Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Polar Bear: Top of the Food Chain

The Christian Science Monitor has a photo of Oxfam demonstrators in Copenhagen dressed as "friendly" polar bears. They want to save the polar bear. Well let me relate a tale of the polar bear.

In February, I believe, 1968, while at MIT, we were doing some work on measuring the aerosols in the upper atmosphere. We were using as vehicles the X 15 and the SR 71, if available. In addition there were sounding rockets launched, from amongst other places, Churchill in the North West Territories, in northern Canada, by Hudson Bay, the western side.

In 1968 this was still an outpost, reached only by RCAF flights from Ottawa. Thus upon landing, the props blowing the snow in a blizzard like fashion, the doors opened and one could see the Quonset huts, World War II artifacts, lights aglow, and the crew chief shouted across the running props:

"Jump and run like hell for the door!"

Accustomed to following orders I promptly ran like hell into the open and welcoming hut. After settling down I asked the crew chief why the running. Then he said, as any old crew chief would:

"The bears, sonny, the bears."

I probed a bit more and found out that the polar bears had become accustomed to "eating" the nice morsels running off the incoming flights. They had lost a few in the past month. I had trouble believing this but I felt what the heck, I will act accordingly. I never saw a polar bear, yet at night you could hear them, like giant black bears, rummaging thru the trash. I knew they were there.

Then some 30 years later I was to find that indeed the polar bear was the largest cause of death in Churchill by far! Thus the legend seemed to be true. It was then that I realized that PETA notwithstanding we humans were not at the top of the food chain, the polar bear was. They can come to like humans, not as fatty as seals, yet we are accommodating their tastes as we get a bit more rotund as a species, yet tasty none the less.

Thus why cry over a loss one step above us in the carnivore food chain. Does Oxfam even know. Why does PETA not protest the polar bear?