North

Seal hunters come across frozen beached bowhead whale

A family out seal hunting in Nunavut came across a very rare sight when they happened upon a full-size, beached, frozen bowhead whale, along with plenty of polar bear tracks nearby.

Hunters say there were plenty of polar bear tracks around the giant mammal

Lenny Panigayak, right, and his 70-year-old father stand on the beached bowhead whale they came across as they and their family were out seal hunting near Taloyoak, Nunavut. (Lenny Panigayak)

When Lenny Panigayak and his family were out seal hunting near Taloyoak, Nunavut, they came across a rare sight, even for experienced hunters.

 It was a full-size, beached, frozen bowhead whale. 

"That was a very, very amazing sight. It's my first time to see a bowhead," said Panigayak. 

When they got close to it, Panigayak said he saw a polar bear in the distance. He thinks there may have been three.

The bear he had the clearest view of was about 12 feet tall, he guesses. 

Polar bears looking 'very healthy'

"I could tell that that polar bear down there was walking down the floe and walking along the side of the floe edge. And I can tell it was not hungry. It was eating the bowhead way up on the shore," he said.

Looking in another direction, he also saw a mother and cubs in the distance, looking very fat, healthy and big.

"It [was] very exciting, but nerve racking as well. Gets your blood pumping, because here you see all along the shore polar bear tracks that are fresh," he said.

While he said it was scary to be there, he knew they were safe because they had their guns to defend themselves if they needed to. 

Panigayak said the area has a lot of polar bears throughout the year. 

A side view of the frozen, beached bowhead whale as Lenny Panigayak and his father walk along the top of it. Panigayak's family came across it when they were out seal hunting. (Lenny Panigayak)

He expects that when the ice becomes more stable, there will be more people going to look at the frozen bowhead whale.

"It's hard to describe the feeling," he said. "That was the first that I've seen any whales that died of natural causes. And it's very amazing. It's a very exciting feeling."

With files from Alex Brockman

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