People in Rankin Inlet woke up to heavy fog Wednesday morning — and news of a polar bear right in their community.
Wayne Kusugak was just getting off a night shift around 7 a.m. at the Rankin Healing Facility when he saw it.
“It heard my vehicle and started running away,” he said.
Startled at first, Kusugak said he was wondering why there was a polar bear right in his community.
Then he started thinking about people that may be walking in the area and sped up. That’s when he saw a woman walking near Tim Horton’s.
“I quickly revved my vehicle,” Kusugak said, just a short time after the experience. “And I went right in between the nanuq [polar bear] and her, and she started screaming. I unlocked my vehicle and we started chasing it right in town.”
They chased the bear past a local store, then the high school before it swam into Williamson Lake, right in the middle of the community.
That’s when Kusugak called the polar bear hotline.
‘Just stay calm’
Daniel Kaludjak, with the government of Nunavut’s Department of Environment, took the call.
“I have my polar bear defense guns at home in my safe. And I quickly grabbed my ammo and headed out,” Kaludjak explained to CBC News after making sure the bear was long gone.
“A lot of things go through your mind when dealing with dangerous animals,” he said. “Just stay calm and hope the bear goes the way you want it to go.”
Kaludjak chased the bear and shot the bear bangers a few times before it swam away in the area known as Itivia, around the Department of National Defence.
He says it wasn’t showing any signs of aggression.
“If it wasn’t scared of us or just didn’t want to go, my decision probably would be to put it down. But in this case, everything worked out well.”
Kaludjak said it’s very rare to see a polar bear in the community.
But this year, he said, the Department of Environment is experiencing a high number of bear callouts. Kaludjak thinks it’s due to moving ice that’s been hanging around the community the last couple of months.
Kaludjak said the wind on Wednesday was “perfect,” blowing the scent of the dump in the bear’s direction and that’s probably why it headed into town.
He guesses the bear was about eight and a half feet tall on hind legs.
“We’re hoping it doesn’t come back.”
Related stories from around the North:
Greenland: Researchers identify polar bear population that hunts off glacier ice, Eye on the Arctic
Iceland: Natural event seems to slow Icelandic glacier melt, Eye on the Arctic
Norway: Will the green transition be the new economic motor in the Arctic?, Eye on the Arctic
Sweden: Sweden’s climate policies closer to reaching goals, Radio Sweden
United States: Bering Sea ice at lowest extent in at least 5,500 years, study says, Alaska Public Media.