Bear and cubs relocated after visit to Yellowknife restaurant

A bear in a dumpster near Yellowknife's Copperhouse restaurant
A bear in a dumpster near Yellowknife's Copperhouse restaurant. ENR/GNWT

A bear and two cubs were successfully relocated late on Friday after spending hours in the vicinity of Yellowknife’s Copperhouse restaurant.

The family had been scared away from the vicinity of the city’s airport earlier in the week. On Friday afternoon, the bears took up residence in and around dumpsters next to the restaurant on Range Lake Road.

Nearby residents reported the sound of gunshots on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesperson Mike Westwick said wildlife officers had used rubber bullets and tranquilizer darts to subdue the bears before moving them.

“Our team has been tracking this family of bears for a few days. We were able to deter them from the airport but they wound up behind Copperhouse yesterday afternoon. I’m really happy to say that saga ended late last night, around 9:30pm, with the successful relocation of the mom and two cubs,” Westwick told Cabin Radio by phone on Saturday morning.



“It’s not quite as simple as people might think,” he said of the hours-long mission to move the bears.

“We had a cub up in a tree that our folks were able to coax down. It gets quite difficult to get the proximity that you need to successfully tranquilize and immobilize bears for relocation.”

Copperhouse, facing a Friday night with bears in the drive-through lane just as Yellowknife prepared to enter new pandemic-related restrictions, had to think fast.

“We’ve hit an unavoidable snag in tonight’s Friday night fun,” the restaurant told customers on Facebook. “Mama bear and her cubs wanted to stop by to make sure they could get a pizza before the new regulations take effect.”



The drive-through shut down for the evening and owner Mark Henry instead directed traffic away from the bears, handing out orders farther from the building.

“They were running with a lot of adversity last night, during their busiest night of the week, and were directing traffic out front while our team was hard at work out back, getting mom and cubs relocated,” said Westwick.

“It’s been a day,” the restaurant wrote online.

There have been multiple incidents this summer in which bears were killed after incidents in various NWT communities. This time, Westwick said, the department was pleased to safely relocate the Copperhouse family.

The mother bear, now named Copper by wildlife officers, has a radio collar and will be tracked. Where they had been relocated was not immediately available.

“It’s always very satisfying when we get to relocate,” said Westwick.

“Our number-one focus is always going to be public safety, but we like to relocate as much as we can and it’s very, very satisfying to do it in this case.”