Trick or treating returns to Arviat this year despite polar bear threat

After two years of indoor Halloween celebrations due to polar bears, Arviat is moving events back outside thanks to help from local firefighters and volunteer bear patrollers.

Fire department, Canadian Rangers to patrol hamlet on Halloween

Despite being one of the few Nunavut communities with a polar bear patrol last summer there were four polar bear defence kills in Arviat. (Elisabeth Kruger/WWF)

After two years of indoor Halloween celebrations due to polar bears, Arviat is moving events back outside thanks to help from local firefighters and volunteer bear patrollers.

The Nunavut hamlet on western Hudson Bay is about 250 kilometres north of Churchill, Man. Like Churchill, the community is visited by many polar bears in the summer and fall.

"With the ice not freezing up till later there's been an increase in polar bears coming into town and they've been coming really close," says Alanna Copland, Arviat's Halloween organizer.

Alanna Copland, Arviat’s Halloween organizer this year, says the community is working together to keep trick-or-treating children safe from polar bears. (submitted by Alanna Copland )

Despite being one of the few Nunavut communities with a polar bear patrol, which assists in keeping the animals away from the hamlet, last summer there were four polar bear defence kills in Arviat.

Recently the local hunters and trappers group wrote to the Government of Nunavut asking for its help in securing more tags to hunt polar bears to try to reduce the number of defence kills.

Two years ago, in response to the polar bear problem, the hamlet asked children not to go trick or treating and held an indoor Halloween celebration.  

Now the town is fighting back for its right to trick or treat.

"The polar bear migratory route is to come right into town and that's not something that's going to change any time soon," says Copland.

"Maybe we can all work together and continue to live our lives as normal as we could despite the challenges we face."

Brent, Alanna Copland's nephew, is all ready for Halloween in Arviat. (submitted by Alanna Copland )

Copland facilitated a community discussion on Halloween and secured teams of volunteers to help keep the hamlet bear-free for trick or treaters — an idea she got from living in Churchill.

Firefighters, local search and rescue volunteers, Canadian Rangers and wildlife officers will lend a hand, as well as many parents to act as de facto polar bear patrollers on Halloween night.

The firefighters are even planning to drive around town with their sirens on to deter any bears from coming close to the hamlet.

"With all that noise and buzz, I'm sure the bears will stay at bay," says Copland.

with files from Nick Murray