2 polar bears invade Nunavut family's campsite

A Nunavut family has an incredible story — and some amazing photos — to share after a visit by a pair of polar bears during a recent camping trip near Chesterfield Inlet.

Mother, cub scared away from cabin by shotgun blast

Two polar bears, a mother bear and her adolescent cub, approach a campsite near Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut. Maggie Putulik grabbed her camera and started taking pictures — that is, until the mother bear began making her way toward the cabin. (Submitted by Maggie Putulik)

A Nunavut family has an incredible story — and some amazing photos — to share after being visited by a pair of polar bears during a recent camping trip.

Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, population 373, is about 540 kilometres north of Churchill, Man. (CBC)
Maggie Putulik and her partner, Brian, were camping with their family near Chesterfield Inlet on July 29 when they were awoken by their dog barking. The couple looked around their camp for activity, but seeing nothing, they returned to bed.

"I heard a noise, an hour later," said Putulik, in Inuktitut. "I'm thinking: 'This time, I am going to see a polar bear.' But when I looked out, I saw not just one, but two: the mother and a teenage cub."

A photographer who publishes her photos online under the name Putulik Photography, Putulik grabbed her camera and started snapping photos. That's when things took a turn for the scary: The mother bear began making her way towards the cabin.

A mother polar bear approaches Maggie Putulik in her cabin near Chesterfield Inlet while a cub investigates the family's drying meat. Maggie's partner, Brian, ultimately scared away the bears by shooting his shotgun in the air. (Submitted by Maggie Putulik)

"So I closed my blinds and started wondering: 'What are we going to do?'" said Putulik. "I had my adult children and grandchildren in the cabin. The cub was trying to get the drying meat on the racks, and the mother bear reached toward the cabin, and started pushing against it.

"Then it heard one of the babies crying, and went back to her cub. And finally, my partner Brian shot in the air with his shotgun, and they ran away and never returned."

Polar bear visits are not unusual in Nunavut communities, with some, such as Arviat and Resolute, organizing regular patrols to check for the animals before children walk to school. The Nunavut government will even pay compensation if the animals damage cabins that had been bear-proofed. 

It wasn't the first time Putulik had seen bears at her cabin — another pair had stopped by earlier in the family's three-week trip.