Nunavut hamlet issues rare summer polar bear warning

“We’re not used to seeing them in town this time of year”


This gaunt polar bear wandered into Arviat's landfill July 13 looking for something to eat. (PHOTO  BY PAUL ANINGAT)

This gaunt polar bear wandered into Arviat’s landfill July 13 looking for something to eat. (PHOTO BY PAUL ANINGAT)

The Hamlet of Arviat has issued a warning asking residents to be aware of polar bears walking in and around the Hudson Bay community of about 2,300 people.

Wildlife officers have been put on call 24 hours a day after two bears wandered into town July 13.

And because of the summer holidays, the hamlet is asking parents to make sure they know where their children are at all times, to ensure their safety.

“We’ve seen an increase in bear activity this summer,” said the hamlet’s senior administrative officer, Steve England. “People are used to seeing bears in the fall, but not so much in the summer time.”

As Nunavut’s southernmost community along the western Hudson Bay, Arviat is a frequent stop for polar bears as they migrate north during the fall months.

While there have been few injuries and little damage caused by the bears, the community has tried to avoid having to kill them in self-defence.

The hamlet has for the last few years hired a polar bear monitor, who works a midnight shift during the fall months to protect the community from nuisance bears, who are generally looking for something to eat.

While there were seven defence kills of polar bears in Arviat in 2010, there were only three the following year when the position was created. And there haven’t been any nuisance polar bears killed in Arviat since.

But summer bears are much less common.

“It’s somewhat normal to see bears on the south side of the community en route to Churchill (Manitoba),” England said. “But we’re not used to seeing them in town this time of year, especially with the number of kids playing outside.”

England said the hamlet employs a night watchman during the summer, so that person, along with bylaw and wildlife officers, has been on the alert for any bear sightings.

England said that, so far, there have been no reports of injuries or damages due to bears, who tend to spend their time in the local landfill.

“We haven’t seen any since Sunday, so hopefully that’s the last of them,” he added.

Any residents who spot bears near the community are asked to the local wildlife office at 857-6944.

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