Becoming a Certified Polar Bear Whisperer

Photographer Ian Johnson. Seal River Heritage Lodge

You’ve heard about the Wolf and Carnivore Conference we are hosting on October 18, but did you also know about our special feature taking place on October 20? The Polar Bear Workshop, presented by Russian researcher Nikita Ovsyanikov, is an all-day practical and theoretical seminar to best demonstrate managing polar bear encounters. A great opportunity for people working or travelling in areas with polar bear populations; this is the first time its been offered in Canada.

Not every confrontation with a polar bear comes with a mediator or a jury to decide the outcome. Polar bears are lethal predators; however, they are animals with behavioural patterns that can be understood and managed. When you encounter a polar bear it’s not solely about your own safety, but also the safety of the bear. Ovsyanikov will establish rules on preventing negative encounters between humans and bears. Additionally, he will provide steps on handling conflict with a bear in a non-lethal manner should you be surprised or confronted.

The workshop is not designed to allow for closer, unsafe interactions with polar bears, but rather establish safe ways to observe and coexist when living in such a big predator’s habitat. Ovsyanikov’s system is based on his analysis from over 2,000 personal encounters with polar bears. His hands-on, or rather hands-off, research allowed him to understand what drives a polar bear in its natural environment. What provokes a bear to attack? How do you deter a bear with the intent to kill you without harming the animal in the process? These are some of the questions Ovsyanikov will be addressing and providing solutions for during the workshop.

Photographer Brandi Hayberg. Frontiers North Adventures

There will be two parts of the workshop: individual safety and safe infrastructure. Individual safety includes: theory on understanding factors that cause conflict and basics of polar bear behavior and practical training on how to perform safety rules. The second part, safe infrastructure, includes theory and specific planning considering geography, ecology, polar bear density and activity in the area.

At the end of the seminar, people will receive a Certificate of Attendance. The maximum number of attendees is 16 people. The seminar will be held the day after the Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 20; registration ends October 1.