6 young polar bears shot near community, says Taloyoak HTO
Dept. of Environment says only 3 defence kills reported
Bob Lyall, who works with the Taloyoak Hunters and Trappers Organization, says since late September, six young bears have been shot after coming into town.
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"In some cases, they were peeking into bedroom windows," says Lyall.
The smallest bear was the size of a large dog; the largest was about two metres long. Lyall says all seemed to be around two years old and all the bears were hungry and looking for food.
"We have had occurrences of polar bears breaking into shacks and stealing food and hides. As well as young polar bears poking into windows of residences," Lyall says, adding the bears are mostly attempting to sneak inside little shacks beside people's homes that are used for storing meat.
People in Taloyoak, which lies on the Boothia peninsula in central Nunavut, are used to polar bears.
The hamlet, which is home to about 900 people, has a quota to hunt 25 bears this year.
'We really don't know what's going on'
Lyall says one theory is that their mothers were killed by large male bears, but so far there’s no evidence of that.
"In my opinion it doesn't seem right because if the mothers are being killed and the cubs being orphaned, it doesn't make sense. We really don't know what's going on."
Another theory is that the bears are coming from the McClintock Channel, to the west of Taloyoak, where a ban on polar bear hunting has been in place for well over a decade.
"There seems to be a growing population of bears in our immediate area, but nobody knows."
Lyall says he’s heard of something similar happening in other communities.
"There is an unusual amount of small bears that are without their mothers where they generally would be," he says.
Lyall says the bears had to be shot because they were a danger to the community — especially kids walking to school.
He plans to ask elders in Taloyoak if they've ever seen something like this before.
Dept. of Environment has different numbers
Nunavut's Department of Environment says, according to the department's numbers, 10 polar bears have been killed this fall in Taloyoak and only one could be described as a yearling.
Stephen Pinksen, the department's assistant deputy minister, says there might be some confusion because what the Hunters and Trappers Organization calls a cub is different from what the public thinks of when they hear the word cub.
"Polar bears stay with their mothers until they're usually two to three years old and then they get chased off because the female's going to breed again," he said.
"In most people's mind, it's no longer a cub then, it's just a young bear."
Pinksen says there do seem to be more bears around the community, but it's not the unusual situation it was made out to be.
"Polar bears are sustainably managed," he said.
"They're not all drowning because of climate change. They're not marauding through communities because all the females are dying from mysterious causes."
He says three of the 10 bears killed near Taloyoak were killed in defence of life and property or as nuisance bears. The other seven were taken as part of the regular bear hunt.