Polar Bear Guards Wanted: A Look Inside the Arctic’s Most Essential Job

Does scanning a frozen landscape for the world’s most powerful land predator sounds like fun? If so, Polar bear guarding might be your calling.


If the prevailing environmental crisis is a race to the bottom, then the rapidly melting, resource-rich Arctic is the finish line. Over that finish line, or rather under it, lies the largest untapped stash of the compounds responsible for cooking it. As a result, the Arctic, which comes from the Greek word Arktikos, meaning Northern bear, continues to vanish. Meanwhile, the iconic and increasingly homeless creature after it was named begins its exodus inland.

A polar bear searching through trash for food at night
The Arctic is melting. As a result, polar bears now head inland in search of food.    Photo Credit: Vice

The World’s Most Powerful Land Predator

The Polar bear is a custom-engineered killing machine. However, it does so only when hungry or threatened. Sadly, they feel hungrier and more threatened by the month. Consequently, the lure of garbage and smells is a risk these magnificent, famished beasts are increasingly willing to take.

Polar bears are often victims of their own curiosity, intelligence, and growing hunger for food. As their habitats evaporate, Polar bears become less picky about their next meal and increasingly emboldened to approach human settlements. For example, temporary shelters set up by scientists, fossil fuel scouts, or other Arctic workers. As a result, the chance these Arctic workers may end up being a Polar bear’s next meal has also increased. That’s where Polar bear guards come in. Every month, tourism and scientific visitations to the Arctic increase. Consequently, so too does the demand for Polar bear guards.

A research team drilling in the arctic at night
Photo Credit: Esther Horvath

What Do Polar Bear Guards Do?

A Polar bear guard’s job description is simple. To keep humans safe from bears, and bears safe from humans. Deterrents range from non-lethal airhorns and flashlights to beanbag-loaded shotguns. Although they pride themselves on keeping them pocketed, they also carry live cartridges as a last line of defense.

A man on a snowmobile with a polar bear in the background
Photo Credit. Vice

Genuine Preservation Vs. Public Relations

The environmentalists genuinely wish to preserve the bears. In contrast, the corporate interests must at least be seen to want to do so. Either way, all involved in Arctic work consider the Polar Bear a sacred cow. At least, until it gets too close. Then, an armed, trained Polar bear guard will be on hand to usher workers to safety and Ski-Doodle the hell out of there. And, in the very worst case, shoot it. This last resort option is something good Polar bear guards pride themselves on avoiding.


Do you have the fortitude for a job in the Arctic? Do you have (or are willing to learn) the required skills to perform its most essential task? Maybe you think ripping around Middle-Earth on a snowmobile looking for (and out for) the earth’s most powerful land predator sounds like fun? If so, then  Polar Bear guarding could be your calling.

Back to School

Advertisements for jobs in the Arctic are commonplace these days. However, you won’t see Polar bear guarding jobs advertised on craigslist. However, as Arctic visitor numbers rise, so too does the need for qualified Polar bear guards. In response, a number of intensive bear awareness and defense programs have emerged deep in the heart of Polar bear territory.


Polar Bear guards keep watch in the Arctic
Photo Credit: UMIAQ

Bear Necessities

The Polar bear guarding training curriculum includes:

  • Safety protocols
  • Behavioral recognition
  • Deterrents
  • Bear attractants
  • First-aid training,
  • Emergency signaling,
  • Helicopter safety
  • Wilderness survival techniques
  • You’ll also need firearms experience.
A woman fires a flare gun as part of Arctic training
A Polar bear guard’s first line of defense is always non-lethal. Flare guns are often enough to get the job done.                     Photo Credit: Esther Horvath

The Trigger Happy Need Not Apply

To Polar bear guards, their weapon serves as an absolute last line of defense. Shooting to kill usually means they’ve failed. From there, they can expect a mandatory police investigation. If it proves that they screwed up hard enough, they may even be liable to prosecution.

Threat Analysis

Polar bear guards remain constantly vigilant, scanning the landscape to spot the animal well in advance. Then, they use their understanding of animal behavior and body language to determine any potential threat level. Polar bears are inquisitive, curious, and easily startled. Can they be persuaded to leave before the bloody snow hits the fan? Is the creature a mother with newborn cubs who wants zero to do with humans? Maybe it’s an unpredictable teenager looking for trouble? Is the animal emaciated, visibly hungry, and more inclined to take risks?

A competent Polar bear guard will have asked themselves all these questions before even thinking about cocking their weapon. Likewise, many native Inuit groups have an innate understanding of Polar bear behavior and psychology. Consequently, job applications from natives are usually given top priority.


Two men guard against polar bears while a research team works in the background
Arctic researchers watch their equipment for hours. A Polar bear guard’s job is to watch their back.  Photo Credit: Chris Arend

The Arctic is huge. How huge depends on who you ask. Some define it as the southern limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Others, as anywhere north of the Arctic circle, which begins at 66° 33’N. Arctic workers usually set off from bigger cities, towns, and outposts scattered throughout the Arctic circle. These include:

  • Baffin Island (Northern Canada)
  • Deadhorse (Alaska)
  • Sisimiut (Greenland)
  • Kiruna (Sweden)
  • Murmansk (Russia)
  • Norilsk (Siberia)
  • Svalbard (Norway)
  • Plenty. And a Polar bear guard’s first priority is risk management. These animals are intelligent and patient predators. Before you spot them, they will have seen you a hundred times. They will monitor you from a distance for days at a time to figure out your patterns, routines, and when and where you are most vulnerable.
  • Some Polar bear guards liken the job to soldiers at war. They must endure long stretches of boredom punctuated by brief moments of high octane action. Polar bear guards say the toughest part of the job is staying alert when there are no bears around. Their days are spent waiting for a confrontation that may not appear amidst a featureless horizon. As a result, remaining mindful can be a struggle. It’s also essential.
  • The best Polar bear guards treat these periods of inactivity as prolonged, open-eye meditations. In contrast, if you have a screw loose, or a screw that too much solitude may loosen, Polar bear guarding is not for you.
Polar bear guards and their skidoos at sunset in the Arctic
Photo Credit UMIAQ
  • You’re at the ends of the earth. Days are spent contemplating untouched glaciers, icy fjords, and soaring snowy mountains. And, of course, the spectacular creatures you are there to protect.
  • Nights are spent socializing with sailors, scientists, and other lively characters. On the other hand, you can take time alone with your thoughts, gazing at the aurora borealis in silent awe through unpolluted skies.
  • In your downtime, the hiking, climbing, camping, fishing, surfing, and adventuring are off the charts.


Read - book recomendations

Share this article


Related Posts