Polar bear surprises women in tent on Alaska coast


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ANCHORAGE (AP) — A polar bear surprised a mother and daughter in a tent on Alaska's Barter Island, and biologists say such encounters likely will increase with the ongoing loss of sea ice from climate warming.

Marie Rexford, 51, and her 81-year-old mother, Betty Brower, were at a fish camp outside the Inupiat village of Kaktovik, the Alaska Dispatch News (http://bit.ly/1oMj2HU) reported Tuesday.

Rexford was pulling on her socks last week when she looked over her shoulder and saw the outline of a paw pressed against the canvas tent.

The paw belonged to a polar bear that was trying to push inside, Rexford's daughter, Flora Rexford, told the newspaper.

"'There's a nanuq outside!'" Marie Rexford yelled, using the Inupiat word for bears, her daughter said. The mother grabbed a rifle and bolted through the tent door and called out, "'Where are you, bear?!'"

The animal began to walk toward Beaufort Sea and Rexford continued yelling.

"'You better get out of here. If you come back, I'm going to shoot you,'" she told the bear, according to her daughter.

"She has kind of a scary voice," Flora Rexford said in a phone interview.

The bear had taken a bite out of an arctic char Marie Rexford had laid out for lunch. Rexford was not available to be interviewed, her daughter said, because she had returned to the camp to keep fishing.

"She'd rather be out on the land than in the town," Flora Rexford said.

Polar bears' primary habitat is sea ice, where they hunt for seals and other prey. As sea ice has receded to deep water beyond the continental shelf, more bears are remaining on land to look for food, according to biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Kaktovik bear incident was the second run-in with humans last week. One day before, a camp manager at a former radar site reported firing two shots at an aggressive bear that fled.

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