A file photo of a polar bear on the ice. Anastasia Sokolova/Dreamstime
The territorial government is advising Tuktoyaktuk residents to avoid leaving food outside after multiple sightings of a polar bear in recent days.
Wildlife officers are patrolling the area and signage has been placed as a warning. An NWT government spokesperson reminded residents to keep pets on leashes and kids close by, avoid walking in the dark and stay indoors if the bear returns to the area.
The bear reportedly has come into town three separate times. the Department of Environment and Natural Resources believes it is being attracted by garbage and food.
While popular advice such as the bear survival rhyme suggests a certain futility around self-defensive manoeuvres when confronted by an aggressive polar bear, ENR says if you’re being charged, stalked or attacked, “stand your ground and be ready to fight.”
The department recommends making loud noises and trying to hit sensitive areas such as the face and nose. If you have a gun, shoot to kill. A lethal response is the most common form of bear control in the NWT, especially when the animals wander too close to residential areas.
“Avoiding the need to put a bear down is exactly why we’re pushing this message today,” said Mike Westwick, ENR spokesperson. “When we leave out attractants like food – including pet food, garbage, or fuel, we’re inviting bears into town. We’re calling on folks to be especially cautious.”
Westwick says that while incidents in Tuktoyaktuk are relatively rare, the Beaufort Delta is part of the polar bear’s natural range.
“Activity generally peaks as the ice is freezing,” said Westwick. “Once the ocean freezes they move on to live their nomadic polar bear lifestyle. But they often wander through the communities following their noses throughout the winter and spring.”
Anyone who sees a bear is encouraged to keep their distance, stay downwind and call an ENR officer at (867) 687-0289.