Halloween Warning: That's Not A Polar Bear Costume

It's polar bear season in the town of Churchill, Manitoba. Officials usually warn kids to stay inside after dark in case a migrating bear comes too close to town. But on Halloween night, the town bands together in a polar bear patrol to keep the streets safe for trick-or-treaters.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Kids everywhere getting ready for Halloween tonight. Nothing unusual is expected up in Churchill, Manitoba.

Mr. ANDREW SZKLARUK (Department of Conservation): Saturday night is pretty ordinary, like any other Halloween.

SIMON: That's Andrew Szklaruk, an officer with the local Department of Conservation. What he might have said that tonight will be like any other Halloween in Churchill. Kids will be trick-or-treating, and they will be, as usual, under the watchful eye of a polar bear patrol.

See, Churchill sits on the edge of the Hudson Bay, directly in the path of bears migrating north to the ice. Halloween's a little like Labor Day weekend for polar bears - it's their travel season. Children are advised not to go outside alone at night. But tonight, Department of Conservation, firefighters and police will band together to keep bears out of town while children go door-to-door.

Mr. Szklaruk is a member of that patrol and he says the evening starts with a half hour flight to see if any bears are approaching town.

Mr. SZKLARUK: After they've done the flight, we'll set up a perimeter of vehicles stationed at the areas where bears tend to walk along the coastline and enter town. And then we'll also have some roving units that patrol some of the back roads.

SIMON: Churchill will see its share of ghosts and goblins tonight. But will the bear patrol don costumes?

Mr. SZKLARUK: No, I'll just be wearing my regular uniform. We'll be cruising around town on patrol and just making sure everyone's out and safe.

SIMON: And to help guarantee that, children can dress up as wizards or pirates, anything but polar bears.

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