Nfld. & Labrador

Polar bears get too close for comfort in Nain, St. Lunaire-Griquet

Along with polar bears who came ashore in the two communities, two black bears came near residential areas in Nain this weekend, and one was put down.

Two black bears also came close to residential areas in Nain over the weekend, and one was put down

This polar bear made it to St. Lunaire-Griquet for the end of the Iceberg Festival, but just missed the annual polar bear dip. (Iceberg Festival/Facebook)

A black bear and a polar bear both had to be put down in Nain over the weekend after coming into residential areas. 

Simon Kohlmeister, a volunteer bear monitor in Nain, got a call from St. John's early Sunday morning about reports of a polar bear.

Kohlmeister told the Labrador Morning Show that he found the report surprising and he assumed it was a case of mistaken identity.

"I took my time and I thought it was just a regular black bear call," he said.

A polar bear that came close to the northern Labrador community of Nain had to be put down early Sunday morning. The meat was later distributed to the community freezer. (Provided by Trevor Dicker)

As Kohlmeister and an RCMP officer got closer to the bear's location, they had to decide whether it had to be put down.

"We had to try and find a way to shoot the bear or get the bear out of town before it hurt someone," he said, adding they had to make a split-second decision whether to put the bear down or try to scare it off.

With the bear close to residential areas and people beginning to gather, the decision was made to put the bear down, he said. The bear's body was kept cool in the RCMP shed overnight. The animal was then butchered and its meat put in the community freezer.

"Everything is being used," Kohlmeister said.

Black bear also put down

But the polar bear wasn't the only bear-related incident in Nain over the weekend. Two black bears were also spotted in town.

The first, and larger, of the two black bears was scared away fairly easily, Kohlmeister said, but the second was more determined to stick around.

"The smaller one was on someone's steps eating dried char," he said. After an attempt to drive the bear away from a residential area, it was put down.

Bear activity around the community is not unusual, Kohlmeister said. There were not many bears last year, but the year before several had to be shot by the town's volunteer bear monitors.

Polar bear on the Northern Peninsula

In other polar bear news, the Iceberg Festival held its annual polar bear dip this weekend — and one ursine visitor took the event very literally.

Just a few hours after the dip closed out the Iceberg Festival, held yearly on the Northern Peninsula, a polar bear was seen on shore in St. Lunaire-Griquet. 

"A crowd gathered quite fast, actually," said Damien Bartlett, who was in the area, told the St. John's Morning Show.

What to do if you come across a polar bear, like this one in St. Lunaire-Griquet? Stay calm and keep your distance. (Iceberg Festival/Facebook)

Bartlett, of L'Anse aux Meadows, said higher numbers of polar bears than usual have been spotted in the area this year, and that sightings both started earlier and — with this weekend's visitor — are continuing later than average. There is more pack ice in the water around St. Lunaire-Griquet than usual for June, which likely explains the bear's arrival.

Once it came ashore, the bear peeked into a shed, swam across to a small island in the harbour, climbed around on some old boats and generally provided entertainment.

"He got up and put on quite a show for the crowd that gathered, but he kept his distance," Bartlett said. "He was quite calm."

Curious polar bear comes to land on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula

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A polar bear snooped around the town of St. Lunaire-Griquet over the weekend. 0:18

The bear eventually got back in the water and swam away without incident, he said, but definitely left an impression.

"I was talking to a couple of tourists there. They seemed very excited to see a polar bear," he said.

"They weren't expecting to come to L'Anse aux Meadows and see a polar bear."

What to do if you see a bear

Of course, an up-close encounter with a polar bear can be dangerous as well as exciting. Kohlmeister said if you come across a black bear you should try to look as large as possible, jump up and down and make a lot of noise.

"But don't run," he said. "Because if you runs, he'll come after you."

In the case of polar bears like the one that came ashore on the Northern Peninsula, Bartlett advises staying calm and keeping your distance. 

"For the most part they seem to do their thing, and I guess if we do our thing I guess there shouldn't be no trouble."

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