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Gwich'in elder has close encounter with polar bear at cabin near Tsiigehtchic

George Niditchie Sr. says he was at his cabin across the Arctic Red River from Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., on Tuesday morning when he was greeted with an unusual visitor about six metres away.

Elder says it was his first time seeing a polar bear, but he was prepared

George Niditchie Sr.'s cabin is near Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T. Niditchie says he was at his cabin on Tuesday morning when he saw his first-ever polar bear. (Submitted by Lawrence Norbert)

George Niditchie Sr. was at his cabin across the Arctic Red River from Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., on Tuesday morning when he heard noise outside and was surprised to see an unusual visitor.

"I saw a polar bear ... When my dogs bark, there's something there and I ran out and he was standing up," said Niditchie.

The Gwich'in elder said it was his first time seeing a polar bear, but he was prepared.

"I had a gun there ready, if he'd start coming toward me, I would've nailed him but he took off," said Niditchie.

He said the polar bear was about six metres away before it ran toward the Mackenzie River Ferry Crossing, which is down the hill from his cabin.

Niditchie laughed and said he let his fellow residents know right away so they wouldn't go berry picking.

It's not the first time polar bears have been spotted wandering further south.

In 2007, a female polar bear made two trips to Fort McPherson, which is south from where Niditchie's cabin is. It was later relocated.

A year later, three polar bears made their way to Délı̨nę, where the bears were shot because of safety concerns for local residents and dogs.

A file photo of a bear eating a piece of whale meat near Churchill, Man., in 2010. Niditchie said the polar bear was about six metres away before it ran toward the Mackenzie River Ferry Crossing. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Environment Department confirms report

N.W.T.'s Environment and Natural Resources confirmed that it received a report of the incident at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Spokesperson Joslyn Oosenbrug said an Environment Department patrolman followed up with Niditchie, and checked out the area. He said he didn't see polar bear tracks.

Oosenbrug said the department will continue to monitor the area and set up a live bear trap, and will attempt to relocate the bear if it's caught.

Anyone who sees the bear is asked to report it as soon as possible. The 24-hour wildlife emergency line is 1-867-678-0289 for the Inuvik region.

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