Alaskan airport gets surprise visitors on the tarmac


Polar bears spotted along the Alaska airport field

Bears caught on film in Alaska ‘ s will Rogers-Wiley Post Memorial Airport.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Scott Babcock was packing for an early morning runway inspection at America’s farthest north of the airport when he saw what he thought were a few of the wolves.

He took a look through his headlights on Thursday and saw something bigger and badder.

Two young polar bears ran away when they saw that the Alaska airport employee truck approach. He made sure to videotape their departure.

“Well, it’s just another day at the will Rogers-Wiley Post Memorial Airport,” Babcock says if the bears scamper off.

Most airports only worry about the flora and fauna in coping with bird strikes, but state officials at the airport in the village of Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, to prepare for marine mammals, who wander in the chukchi Sea and around a fence.

A bearded seal estimated to weigh 450 lbs (204 kg) plunked himself down on a job in October after a storm. The state Department of Transportation warned drivers of the “low implementation.”

But polar bears are a different story. They have claws, teeth, and sometimes fatal attitude. And in this time of the year, when the sun is down all day for the next few months, polar bears can be difficult to see.

“These bears can be 40 meters away from you and you wouldn’t know,” said Babcock, an equipment operator to foreman.

If someone ran out and was trapped between a polar bear and a fence, “things could get really ugly really fast,” he said.

Complicating Babcock’s work is that polar bears are protected marine mammals. Airport employees are not authorized to hunt or them to harass. If bears continue to hang out, they call in the wildlife management section of the North Slope Borough, Alaska’s version of counties.

The bears got themselves out of harm’s way Thursday. They went to the airport before the scheduled flight and 30 mph winds had grounded some local traffic.

When the bears saw Babcock’s headlights, they ran to an infield area and, eventually, a snow dump. The bears hang out for a few hours, disappeared and showed up again on Thursday evening.

An animal control officer may drove them out, Babcock said. He figures they were hungry.

“They are looking for food. They are looking for everything they can find, such as a bear,” Babcock said. “If they find some scrap, it will be easier to choose a scrap-up than it is to kill a seal.”

Call the North Slope Borough and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is responsible for U.s. polar bears, were not immediately returned.

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