No photos! Put your phone down around polar bears, wildlife enforcement says

Carrie Barry Dyson snapped this picture from safe inside her cabin in Batteau, Labrador. She says the bear gave her quite a scare. (Submitted by Carrie Barry Dyson)
A picture of a nearby polar bear is impressive, but it can also be dangerous to get. That’s why wildlife enforcement officers are discouraging the public from stopping for a snap if they see one of the big white bears in the wild.

There have been multiple polar bear sightings across Newfoundland and Labrador in Atlantic Canada, from Carmanville to Cartwright, already this spring. It can be tempting to prove you’ve seen one of the bears in person, but Colin Carroll with the province’s Department of Land Resources said a photo isn’t worth the risk.

“It’s not a good idea to stick around and get a picture,” Carroll told Newfoundland Morning.

“Keep your distance and back away slowly. Keep calm and quiet. Try and create space between you and the animals and proceed in the opposite direction when possible.”

Dustin Carroll spotted this polar bear with its tongue hanging out in Cook’s Harbour, N.L. (submitted by Dustin Carroll)

Carroll is seeing a lot of people stopping to snap quick pictures of bears while out for a drive or a ride on snowmobile, and said that’s a bad idea.

“It’s a snowball effect,” said Carroll.

“Someone else does it, and then another group does it, and soon you could have a pretty big crowd around an area where there is a bear,” he said.

Makes a tough job tougher

Even friendly paparazzi could agitate wild animals.

While we’re all more likely to have a camera on hand these days, thanks to smart phones, Carroll said he wouldn’t advise anybody to stop for a photo unless they are very far away from the animal and using an extra long camera lens.

This white, furry beast was spotted walking down the road in Carmanville, N.L. (submitted by Clayton Collins)

Carroll and his team with wildlife enforcement are responsible for deterring bears from sticking around communities, but snap-happy spectators can prevent the officers from doing that job properly.

“We’d like the option to have lots of space and ability to use our deterring agents, which do include high-powered rifles for tranquillizing or shooting off loud bangers to get the bear, and you have to have a lot of space to be able to use those pieces of equipment,” he explained.

Despite the recent sightings, Carroll doesn’t believe there are more polar bears than usual this spring. He and his staff consistently receive calls about bear sightings this time of year, he said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Couple in Atlantic Canada feels lucky to be alive after polar bear encounter, CBC News

Finland: Elk hunting season increasingly bringing hunters and joggers in same areas in Finland, Yle News

Norway: Could drones help prevent polar bear attacks on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard?, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian Arctic town overrun by polar bears, CBC News

Sweden: Hunters push to end Sweden’s ban on bow hunting, Radio Sweden

United States: After deadly bear attack, hikers in Anchorage, Alaska weigh risks, Alaska Public Media

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