'Frank, it's a polar bear!'
Sightings of animals spike near coastal communities
When Ivy Harnett's husband told her to rush to her cabin window Sunday to see a polar bear, she assumed he was simply teasing.
Fogo Island — off Newfoundland's northeast coast — is not, after all, noted for its array of subarctic wildlife.
But the view from her window was something she'll not soon forget.
"I thought I was going to see a caribou walking down the road," Harnett told CBC News.
"When I saw the polar bear, I squealed and said, 'Frank! It's a polar bear!' He says, 'That's what I told ya.' "
Harnett said the polar bear was sniffing within 16 metres of the cabin. At one point, she said, the animal — estimated to weigh at least 180 kilograms — turned in their direction and started to sprint.
"I guess he smelled what we were cooking for dinner," she said.
"I don't know, because I don't know what polar bears are like."
Harnett's husband fired a warning shot in the air, which was enough to prompt the animal to jump back into the ocean.
Later, using a tranquillizer, wildlife officers managed to catch the bear, one of a series of recent polar bear sightings around Newfoundland and Labrador coastal communities.
For instance, conservation officers and the RCMP were continuing a hunt Monday for a polar bear spotted about 15 kilometres outside St. Anthony, one of the most northerly towns on the island.
"It's taken to a wooded area there and is sticking pretty close to the trees, and any time we can get close to it in a helicopter, it just hides out in the trees. You can't do much with it that way," RCMP Cpl. Chad Norman said.
"And, of course, I'm certainly not getting out there on foot to go meet it, that's for sure."
Norman said police estimate there are at least 10 polar bears in the larger area.
The RCMP has warned snowmobilers and cabin areas outside St. Anthony to avoid the area over the next few days.
In Norman Bay, Labrador, resident George Roberts said he had seen almost 40 bears pass by the community on ice pans, and two have strayed into the town.
Wildlife officials, though, say they need more information to determine whether more polar bears have entered communities than in preceding years.
Rebecca Jeffery, a wildlife biologist with the Newfoundland and Labrador government, said sightings may be up, but that doesn't mean there are more bears coming ashore.
"The animals may be using their range differently and they may be coming to land more often, and that can absolutely give the appearance of more animals," she said.
"Where, in fact there may be the same numbers, they are just closer to people."