Nightly News   |  November 16, 2013

Struggling to balance the polar bear-people relationship

The delay in the sea ice forming has some polar bears roaming a nearby town. Residents hope to deter return trips by locking the animals up for 30 days. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> story that gives new meaning to the problem of unbearable neighbors. we are talking about polar bears that invade a northern canada town for years and have done so with a vengeance this year. it may have to do with climate change .

>> reporter: where the polar bears roam in churchill , canada, the street signs are a little different. here, 800 people and some 900 bears try to co-exist from late june to late november when the sea ice disappears in hudson bay and the bears come on land to wait for the ice to reform. this year the animals that attract 10,000 tourists to the town are in some cases being anything but neighborly.

>> we have had two different attacks on people.

>> reporter: three resident injured by bears in two incidents leaving some to wonder if climate change is starving thebears. hereou can see a mother and cub. ey sm to b feasting on the kelp on the shoreline, but the polar bears ' favorite pemeal is ring seal . to get it they need sea ice . the device is the hunting platform. instead of lasting eight months in hudson bay scientists say the ice only lasts seven which means th bears are on land a month longer without food.

>> the question is are they actually seeking people as food. the jury is out on that. we're not sure.

>> reporter: the town of churchill is on the bears ' path back to the ice. if they get to close the bears are lured into giant traps or rounded up by conservation officers. next stop, polar bear jail.

>> prior to having the holding facility the bears were mainly captured, immobilized, flown out the same day. they were finding it was a race to get back to town.

>> reporter: now the bears can spend up to 30 days in an attempt to keep them from becoming repeat offenders.

>> on most years we hold for bears than the police hold people.

>> reporter: a struggle to maintain a relationship that works best when both parties keep their distance. anne thompson , nbc news, churchill , canada.