Chopper used to chase away Labrador polar bear

Wayne Broomfield, a base camp manager near Labrador's Torngat Mountains, recalls exactly the moment when his bear attack survival training kicked in.

Screaming, clapping, yelling, rocks and gun shots were not enough to ward off animal

A photo of the polar bear that caused some nervous moments for those stationed at a base camp on Thursday June 26 near Labrador's Torngat Mountains. (Charlotte Nochasak)

"When the bear crouched and put his head down, I knew that this bear was trouble."

Wayne Broomfield recalls exactly the moment when his bear attack survival training kicked in.

It was about 6 a.m. on Thursday. That's when Broomfield — a base camp manager near the Torngat Mountains, on Labrador's northern coast — got a knock at his door from a fellow camp mate to alert him that there was a polar bear nearby.

When Broomfield got up to see for himself, that is when he realized the threat of a polar bear attack was real.

"The first instance is to go out and try and scare it away, the last thing we want to do is put down any bears," Broomfield told Labrador Morning.

After the bear was chased away from the camp the first time it returned. That's when Wayne Broomfield and his fellow camp mates decided to scare the polar bear away with their helicopter. (Charlotte Nochasak)
​Broomfield said his attempts to scare the bear off — by making noise, clapping his hands and chucking rocks at the animal — did not work.

He said his experience living and working in Labrador's outdoors has trained him to know a polar bear's intentions by reading its body language.

"In looking at him, he was a very big bear [but] he was a skinny bear, so he was not eating well," he said. 

Broomfield said polar bears are normally skittish, but not this one.

He knew the bear had observed him. "[The bear] put his head down and he just started running [towards me]."

Grabbed his rifle

"So I turned around and I started running [back] into the building," he said.

"Luckily in time I shut the door as he was coming up the steps, so I went and grabbed my rifle," Broomfield recalled.

"By that time [the bear] was pushing at the door, biting at the window."

"[The bear] had his mouth open, biting at the glass, biting at the screen and just pushing on the door."

Instinct to warn others

By that point, some of the staff that Broomfield works with at the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies were becoming a little nervous. 

"My instinct was to warn the other guys because we had [other staff] still sleeping in tents."

"So I went through the other door and started firing off rounds to get them up and to notify them that there was a bear on the camp," Broomfield said.

"Luckily that worked."

Broomfield said there was a report of three other bears that wandered onto another nearby camp in the same week, but that those bears were only interested in some fish that was drying there.

He said during the early summer he usually takes camp visitors to nearby islands where they normally see up to 10 bears each day.

But Broomfield said the bear that he came face-to-face with Thursday was not only hungry, but was more aggressive and determined than usual.

The bear came back

"We fired some shots at him on the ground as he was running away and then about 15 minutes later, he wandered back."

"Again, the last thing we want to do is to destroy a bear, so we fired shots at the ground in front of him again," Broomfield said.

Broomfield and the others turned to an unusual option to control the animal. 

"We actually got the helicopter and chased him away," he said. 

Broomfield said for those planning on visiting the base camp and the Torngat Mountains area this summer should not let his run-in deter them.

He said the reason why the bear was able to roam as close to them as it did was because a bear fence is still in the process of being built at his camp.

Once it is complete, Broomfield said it will be staffed by on-call bear guards 24/7.

"We have some highly trained bear guard staff on the site … with the training that we have done there is no need to destroy a bear," Broomfield said.

"Even through he [was] an aggressive bear, we dealt with it, we chased him away without actually having to put him down which is a good scenario."

With files from Jay Legere