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Polar bear patroller: the dog who is ‘star of the North’

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Brownie, a 5 year old husky cross, can boast to be the dog who’s on top of the world. Well, furthest north at any rate. She’s on polar bear alert guarding the scientists and support team of the Catlin Arctic Survey way out on the floating sea ice of the Arctic ocean.

By Rod Macrae

Brownie is an early warning detector for polar bears. She spends her days watching the horizon and sniffing the wind for bears. The team recruited Brownie to come with them onto the frozen ocean because it is a popular place for polar bears to hunt for food, mostly seal.

Paul Ramsden, Ice Base manager, said “She’s done a fantastic job so far. No bear has come anywhere near the place. But that’s because Brownie’s done her job as our deterrent and our early warning system.

“As temperatures begin to rise at this time of year, the possibility of open water near the Ice Base increases. Open water encourages seals to surface, and that attracts the attention of polar bears. Brownie will become even more important to us as the weather gets warmer.”

“Sometimes she does head out of the camp to accompany the scientists out doing their work. That’s when she gets to pull a sledge, which she seems to love.”

Brownie has been trained for her job in the northern Canadian outpost of Resolute.
“It takes quite a lot of training to become a good polar bear watch dog. You need a brave dog that does not just run off and hide in the tent when it senses a polar bear! Brownie is a really brave dog.”

The Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 is focused on what is widely considered to be the ‘other’ carbon problem beyond climate change – that of ocean change, researching how greenhouse gases could affect the marine life of the Arctic ocean. Laura Edwards, a researcher from Bangor University in Wales, and Rod Macrae, Head of Communications at Geo Mission, are blogging for WWF throughout the Survey from the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base in Nunavut, northern Canada – please come back regularly for their updates.

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