Friday, April 22, 2011

"A Polar Bear, A Polar Bear"

A polar bear, a polar bear
Is sleeping in his den
Snore, snore, snore, snore

A polar bear, a polar bear
Is sleeping in his den
Snore, snore, snore, snore

Please be very quiet
Very, very quiet
If you wake him
If you shake him
He gets very MAD!!

The above song is one of my students' favorites. Julie Egli, the ECE coach from the district office, taught it to me at the beginning of the year. Most of the other villages sing it as a grizzly bear, but a polar bear is much more appropriate for us here in Shishmaref.

Last year, there wasn't really any talk of polar bears in or around Shishmaref.

That is not the case this year, however.

In January, in the middle of the night, a polar bear showed up near the airport. No one saw it, but it's tracks were discovered in the morning. It came onto the island on the lagoon side, did some loops around  Alfred Ningeulook's dog team, walked over to someone's drying racks and ate some seal blubber, and wandered back out to the ocean. Some guys tried to follow the tracks out onto the ocean with no luck. Amazingly, Alfred's dogs were unharmed. It's kind of scary how close it went to the village! The closest tracks were less than 100 yards from the village! I went with John Kokoek out on the snow machine to check out the tracks in the afternoon. I didn't have my camera, but Kiley had gone out with Warren earlier in the day and she had taken some pictures... so thanks, Kiley!

Where the polar bear ate the blubber.

Polar bear track vs. Warren Sinnok's track.

Tracks by the racks.

Polar bear tracks... you can even see the individual toes!



A month or so later, there were tracks sighted again. This time by the tannery, which is the exact opposite side of town (from the airport). The tannery is at the edge of town, but basically considered in town. So this guy was super close. The polar bear checked out Daniel Olanna's dog team this time, and again the dogs were left unharmed. However, there were some seal carcasses there from hunting season and it dragged one away for a snack. Daniel's wife Evelyn was mad because of course it picked the seal with the skin still attached. David Olson took me to see the tracks in the evening, but my camera batteries were dead. 

The past couple months, there hasn't really been any talk of polar bears. Yesterday after After-School Tutoring, I heard that Curtis Nayokpuk got a polar bear up the coast. Of course I had to go check it out. He got it about 8 miles up the coast from Shishmaref. Curtis is the grandfather of two of my students, Tricia and Chelsea.

Here are some photos: 

Giant paw!

Head and shoulders.

Knees and toes :)

The polar bear and me!

The polar bear and me again... this time I am touching it!


Kind of scary...

Joey and the polar bear!

Tricia was yelling "Amy Cellar!!!" out of the window!

Tricia and Chelsea!

Joey examining the polar bear.


His ear was cute :)

I have heard that polar bears around town are usually fairly thin. If they come this far off the ocean, it is usually because they are hungry. This guy was pretty fat, though! Evidently he was hunting seals and must've had success all winter.

Some of you may not appreciate the killing of polar bears. I used to be right with you. However, after living here nearly two years, I know and understand the hunter / gatherer / subsistence way of life. And let's face it - if you see a polar bear out in the wilderness, chances are someone is going to die, so you better make sure it's not you and kill the polar bear. 

So, it was a sad day for this polar bear, but an exciting one for the village of Shishmaref!


  1. Now I've got the polar bear song, and "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" in my head.

    Awesome pictures.

  2. I LOVE this song! Although we sing it the "Grizzly Bear" way :) ... Great pictures Amy. Thanks for sharing!