The NWT’s wildlife officers say bear tracks in the region of Vee Lake, outside Yellowknife, cannot be confirmed as those of a grizzly.
Facebook in Yellowknife has been alive with reports of a grizzly bear in the area, which would be a rarity. Only a handful of sightings have been reported in the past two decades.
On Saturday, a resident trapping for beaver told NNSL he was “certain” the bear he had seen near Vee Lake last Thursday was a grizzly.
On Monday, Yellowknife’s NWTSPCA animal shelter posted: “We have been notified that there is a sick grizzly bear in the Vee Lake area. Please avoid this area if possible.”
It was not clear if the SPCA was referring to a separate sighting.
Later on Monday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) told Cabin Radio its officers were not yet able to confirm the presence of a grizzly.
Acknowledging such an animal had been reported on Thursday, a department spokesperson said by email: “ENR officers attempted to locate the bear but were unable to find any tracks due to the recent snowfall.
“While we can confirm these are indeed bear tracks, we cannot confirm with certainty they are grizzly bear tracks without further analysis (measurements).”
ENR asked anyone who sees a bear in or near any community to report the sighting directly – in the North Slave’s case, the regional office number is (867) 767-9238 – “so that our officers can attempt to locate the bear and issue a public safety notice, if required.”
There’s also a wildlife emergency number, available 24 hours a day: (867) 873-7181.
“Grizzly bears are not known to inhabit the area around Yellowknife; however, there have been cases in the past where they can migrate out of their normal range,” the department wrote, suggesting a grizzly could have come near the city in search of food. All types of bear are known to travel hundreds of kilometres for food if need be.
If you encounter a grizzly bear at a distance, the department said, “alert the bear you are there and back away slowly.” Scare it with noise if it begins to approach you.
If the bear is close, back away slowly and quietly without startling it, if you can. If it’s very close, stand your ground.
“If the bear charges, play dead, lay on your stomach to protect your vital organs, and cross your fingers behind your neck,” the department’s advice read. “If the bear treats you like prey, fight back.”