●Alaska scientists say the chances of a polar bear encounter have increased after research reveals the bears are arriving on shore earlier and staying on land longer, a report said.
●Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey found changes in sea ice habitat have coincided with evidence that polar bears' use of land is increasing.
●The polar bears come to land from the Beaufort Sea during the ice-melt season, when the sea ice breaks up in the summer and refreezes in the fall, scientists said.
●The average duration of the ice-melt season has increased by 36 days since the late 1990s, researchers said.
●The bears are arriving "a little bit ahead of schedule," said Todd Atwood, a research wildlife biologist leading the U.S. Geological Survey's polar bear research program.
●Polar bears usually come to shore in mid-August, but residents have reported sightings as early as May in Kaktovik, a small town about 640 miles north of Anchorage, biologists said.
●Resident Annie Tikluk was one of the few who encountered a bear before neighbors scared it off.
●Her daughter and two nieces were playing outside when "I saw the bear and ran out," Tikluk said.
●"The main issue is that bears in the southern Beaufort are now using land to an extent they haven't used it historically," Atwood said.
●"And increasing activities in the Arctic, particularly those related to development, the main consideration going forward is probably going to be how bears and humans are sharing those spaces."