WATCH: Polar bears run across airport runway
Sunday, December 17, 2017, 12:19 PM - It figures that the northern-most airport in the U.S. would occasionally have a polar bear problem.
The Will Rogers-Wiley Post Memorial Airport in the town of Utqiaġvik on the north coast of Alaska had a pair of bears hang out on the runway in the early morning hours of Thursday, spotted by Scott Babcock, an airfield maintenance worker with the state transportation department.
Babcock posted photos and video of his encounter to his Facebook page, depicting the bears ambling off as he neared them.
"Polar bears on the airfield are a huge safety concern for their safety as well as those who work at the airport," he told one commenter. "Lots of things could go wrong very quick if someone stepped outside a building and encountered one of these guys especially if they were backed up against a fence. Animal control was called and they dealt with them."
Polar bears are considered a vulnerable species, with some populations doing worse than others, depending on where they are in the Arctic.
When challenged by some commenters about whether he was harassing the bears by chasing them, Babcock said the bears saw him at the same time he saw them, and fled. He followed them to make sure they did not run toward the town proper, or a fence.
"We have to follow the law like everyone else when it comes to marine mammals and these bears were never in harms way from me," he says.
Given the airport's proximity to the sea, Arctic sea life will occasionally wander into the area, and the Toronto Star says a bearded seal weighing an estimated 200 kilograms hunkered down on the runway after a storm (the local authorities seem to take it in stride: The Star says the transportation department warned of 'low sealings' that day).