Polar bear patrol keeps Churchill's trick-or-treaters safe
Some trick-or-treaters in the northern Manitoba town of Churchill will be going out under police escort this year.
That's because it's prime polar bear season in the seaport community, located on the shores of Hudson Bay, about 1,050 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
The bears wander through Churchill making their way north up the coast of Hudson Bay to hunt for seals.
That's where the polar bear patrol comes in. It is comprised of RCMP members, representatives from Parks Canada and Manitoba Conservation officers.
Every Halloween, they fan out around town to watch for the bears while kids are trick-or-treating.
"You will see some of our trucks out patrolling. We do go down pretty much every road in town," said Andrew Szklaruk, one of the natural resource officers who helps organize about a dozen patrol units for Halloween night.
"It's not like we follow a group [of kids], but we do pass through pretty much everywhere around town and we keep a good presence."
A helicopter will also fly overhead Saturday to make certain no bears have wandered into the town site.
"About 4 p.m., we'll do a half-hour flight. We check the rocks, the willows, and areas where bears sometimes frequent around town," said Szklaruk. "Then we'll set up somewhat of a perimeter."
Patrol units on the perimeter will monitor the directions from which the bears tend to come into town. If any are sighted, they will be forced back out.
"We haze bears that come into town with trucks and cracker shells and sometimes rubber bullets. We also set up intercept traps — live holding traps that are on the outskirts of town," Szklaruk said, adding 12 bears are already in holding pens.
They will be released once the trick-or-treating is done.
While the patrol team watches for bears, the trick-or-treaters don't seem to notice, Szklaruk added.
"There's people at the corners of the town. You feel safe when you're out," said Kim McCullogh, whose three daughters are all five years old or younger and will be going door-to-door.