Polar Bear Surprise

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 3:06pm

Mother and cub awake from hibernation to find oil rig has been built around their den.

Imagine going to bed on a deserted island and waking up in the middle of a construction site.

That's exactly what happened to a pair of polar bears on Alaska’s North Slope.

In March, oil field workers at ENI Petroleum were stunned when they spotted a pair of polar bears on Spy Island, a manmade offshore drilling site a few miles off the coast of the Beaufort Sea, near Oliktok Point.

The company called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which sent a biologist to set up a den camera.

The feds say the mother bear had made herself a den in a snow drift back in October, before the site was up and running.

Company employees did not know the pair of bears where there until their heads popped up on March 18.

“Must have been a shock for her because when she went into the den it was an empty island, and when she came out there was quite a lot going on,” said Bruce Woods, spokesperson for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The surprise appearance triggered an evacuation of all of the employees, and shut down production until March 23.

Several hours of footage shows the nosy pair sniffed around the site for a couple days, even touching the equipment.

“The thing that really amazes me the most, and just makes me smile, is when the cub comes out you'll see that he doesn't want to be anywhere but immediately under his mother,” said Woods. “You know wherever she goes, he just trots along and tries to hang under her legs.”

The pair eventually made their way away from the island and headed out onto the sea ice and production resumed.
 

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