Advancing Iqaluit polar bear fatally shot by wildlife officer

Iqaluit wildlife officers fatally shot an advancing polar bear near the old cemetery and breakwater in Iqaluit early Tuesday morning. 'The bear began advancing towards one of the officers at a distance of 20 feet, posing an immediate risk to the officer's life.'

Bear posed 'immediate risk' to officer's life: Department of Environment

A group including wildlife officers and local hunters gather around the dead bear. (Patrick Nagle/CBC )

An Iqaluit wildlife officer fatally shot an advancing polar bear near Iqaluit's old cemetery and breakwater early Tuesday morning, after the animal was seen roaming near a residential area.

The bear was shot on the sea ice near Nobles Beach, at the end of Sinaa Street.

Local hunters clean the carcass of a polar bear shot in Iqaluit this morning. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

Iqaluit's wildlife office received a call at 2:45 a.m. about a bear being sighted near the city causeway. There were several more reported sightings over the next three hours, close to people's homes in the vicinity of the breakwater, according to Nunavut's Department of Environment.

At 5:45 a.m., the bear was located by the conservation officers on the tidal flats.

"The bear began advancing towards one of the officers at a distance of 20 feet, posing an immediate risk to the officer's life," the department said. "The officer fired one shot to kill the bear."

Meat to be shared

Afterward, local hunters could be seen stripping and cleaning the carcass of the bear on the rocky shore.

Geetalook Kakee, with the Amarook Hunters and Trappers Organization, said he was relieved the bear was killed. 

"Wherever they know there's food, they tend to come back, especially if the food is easy to get," Kakee said in Inuktitut. 

The meat of the young male bear will be shared by the hunters who butchered it. 

Yesterday, wildlife officers chased a bear from the Telesat site towards the Sylvia Grinnell River and on to the sea ice. 

The bear was photographed Monday evening by Isaac Demeester. (Isaac Demeester)

Social media response

The shooting sparked strong reactions from people across the territory and beyond, with many questioning the decision to kill the bear.

"What's wrong with using bear bangers or ... a gun to scare it off?" asked Brandon N Salena Collins on the CBC Nunavut Facebook page.

"Sad it had to come to that," added Yellowknife's Dorothy Jean Drumm Mercer. "The bear must have been starving to be so close to people."

But Nunavut residents were adamant that a defence kill was the right decision to protect the community.

"Bears are known to return to towns once they've discovered a food source," posted @Nuliayuk on twitter. "This was a safety issue." 

Some residents, including Christine Gordon-Tootoo, expressed frustration that people who were fueling the debate were ignorant of northern practices. 

"That's the protocol when a polar bear keeps coming back, we kill it," she posted on the CBC Nunavut facebook thread. "It's a closely regulated process that all the communities take part in."

The bear was photographed Monday night on the sea ice outside of Iqaluit, looking towards the satellite community of Apex. (Isaac Demeester)