Polar bears are stealing booze and candy from humans, and it's really not as funny as it sounds.

Polar bears are largely known as the poster-pets of environmentalism, and it's easy to see why.

They're like giant, adorable, white-but-not-actually-white teddy bears who could just as easily cuddle you as kill you.

Also they've spent the last half-century dwindling near extinction and are still considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act.


The new rap music video from Polar B. GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

And that's exactly why we should be using mass surveillance to keep them safe.

After all, it works with people, right?

"Oh hello there Mr. Spy-Drone-Video-Camera-Thing Disguised as a Giant Snowball, how are you today?" — this polar bear, probably. GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

See? Polar bears love being spied on — just like us!

...Oh wait.


GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

OK, so they might not appreciate the snooping. But we have good reason for keeping tabs on our fuzzy Arctic friends.

According to a new study in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, human-polar bear interactions are on the rise, now that the bears' homes and food sources are melting away.

Or, as they put it in the abstract:

"Polar bears are increasingly using land habitats in some parts of their range, where they have minimal access to their preferred prey, likely in response to loss of their sea ice habitat associated with climatic warming. [...] Projections of continued sea ice loss suggest that polar bears in the Chukchi Sea and other parts of the Arctic may increasingly use land habitats in the future, which has the potential to increase nutritional stress and human-polar bear interactions."

For all we've done to cut down on hunting all across the globe, polar bears must still contend with threats of starvation and a rapidly shrinking habitat — both of which are symptoms of the larger issues of climate change.

As a result, polar bears are wandering from their natural habitats and walking right into our backyards — with alarming frequency.

It's like when an ant shows up and ruins your picnic. Except in this case, that ant can kill you with one swipe of its massive claw.

"Draw me like one of your French girls. Then let me claw your face off." GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

For example, there's the polar bear who stole a steak and wine dinner from a BBC film crew in Norway.

After a long day shooting on location for an episode of David Attenborough's "The Hunt," Sophie Lanfear and her team came home to their rented cabin in Svalbard to find a drunken polar bear passed out on the lawn, having gorged himself on their stash of wine and the 55 pounds of meat they brought along for their trip.

The polar bear returned three more times over the course of two days — but of course, there wasn't any more food for him to eat.

"Huh? What? I'm awake. You guys wanna do shots?" GIF via BBC Earth Unplugged/YouTube.

All kidding aside, the idea of a drunk polar bear stumbling through your home is pretty horrifying, to say the least.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, Canada, polar bear wrangling is a full-time job.

Authorities actually have to police the streets on Halloween to stop polar bears from beating up little kids and stealing all their candy. There's even a dedicated bear cell at the local precinct house.

"Give us all your Kit-Kat Bars and no one gets hurt." Photo by Payton Chung/Flickr.

(Other polar bears have recently been caught trying on human pants and disco-dancing with a whale carcass, but I'm not including those photos here because they both make me uncomfortable.)

So as much as it pains me to say — maybe spying on polar bears isn't such a bad thing?

That snowball-lookin' drone in the GIFs above was one of five specially-designed spycams created as part of a BBC program called "Polar Bear: A Spy on the Ice" — until the polar bear came along and gleefully crushed it, anyway.

These spycams allow filmmakers and researchers to get up-close-and-personal with polar bears, and gather information on their movements, habits, and behaviors.

As the show's director, John Downer, explains in an interview with Mongabay:

"Some of our small Snowcams were designed to operate autonomously, they would power up and record once a bear came within 20 metre range of it. These could be left for up to one week in the extreme cold. They even contained a satellite phone that would automatically call us on sensing a bear. [...] They were strengthened to withstand the bears' crushing body weight and powerful jaws. Icebergcam was able to follow bears hunting on the sea ice and track alongside them from just a paw swipe away. The close proximity of the cameras provided viewers with an engaging and fresh experience of polar bears that was far removed from the solitary cold killers as they have been traditionally portrayed."

Data collection alone won't help us stop climate change any more than it helps stop terrorism (which is not at all). But if we're not going to pay attention to the damage that we're doing to the planet — and we really should — then we're going to need to figure out how to coexist with our furry new neighbors.

"Do you have a moment to talk about your Lord and Savior — hey wait come back!" GIF via John Downer Productions/YouTube.

But despite their increasingly erratic behavior, things are (mostly) looking up for the polar bear population.

It's hard to get an exact count, but the general consensus is that the polar bear population has at least doubled since its lowest point in the late-1960s. And thanks to those handy polar bear wranglers, no one in Manitoba has been mauled by a bear in more than 30 years. That's a win on both sides, right?

But none of that changes the fact that they're still in danger — and so are we, as long as their homes continue to melt away.

So let's demand that our world leaders take action now to protect our planet's climate, or else we'll have to deal with a lot worse than polar bears drinking all our booze and ruining Halloween.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."