Sudbury·Photos

Polar bear shot after wandering through Kashechewan

Residents of Kashechewan say a polar bear cub was shot by local police on Tuesday after it wandered into the community.

Researcher says polar bears rarely travel this far south

"I never thought I would see a polar bear in my community wandering around like that," Kashechewan resident Brandon Spence told CBC News. (Brandon Spence)

Residents of Kashechewan say a polar bear cub was shot by local police on Tuesday after it wandered into the community.

The mother and another cub have since been spotted a few kilometres away, according to posts on Facebook.

Brandon Spence, a volunteer firefighter and resident of Kashechewan, captured photos of the polar bear cub when it first appeared on Monday night.

"We had a call out through our radio saying there was a polar bear roaming through one of our streets," he said.

"I got to my truck, jumped in, got my brother to come with me, and we went to go check it out to assist the police."

The polar bear cub was shot after it returned to the community a second time. (Brandon Spence)

"We were trying to block the bear [so that it would] not come into the community, and it started coming towards us," he said.

"The police started to play their sirens and lights. The bear turned around and went back to the school portables," he said.

"It was starting to roar, you could hear the fence post starting to squeak."

 

The bear broke through the fence and ran away, but returned the next day, Spence said. That's when it was shot by police for the safety of residents.

The bear was blessed by elders and will be eaten by a local, he added.

Polar bears rarely travel this far south

It's rare but not unheard of to see polar bears this far south, according to Brandon Laforest with the World Wildlife Fund. Laforest has researched polar bears living along the James Bay coast.

"This time of year when the ice is melting, a lot of the bears are kind of riding the sea ice, trying to stay on as long as possible to access seals, which are their primary food source," he said.

"Every now and then you have a bear riding it a little too far and it may end up further south than it intended and it may come on shore on the mainland." 

A hungry polar bear would then easily be drawn into nearby communities by the smell of food and garbage, Laforest said. 
Members of Kashechewan transport the polar bear cub. (Brandon Spence)

"Human-polar bear conflict rates are on the rise," he added. "As sea ice continues to decline, bears will spend more time on land, even in areas like James Bay."

Unlike black bears, polar bears don't have a lot of interactions with communities, Laforest said.

"The number of polar bear attacks across history is so minimal compared to black bears," he said. "Deaths by polar bears in the last couple of centuries...are in the single digits."

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Nishnawbe-Aski police would not provide CBC News with any information about the polar bears in Kashechewan.

The ministry confirmed that a bear was shot in the community on Tuesday night.

a polar bear cub found wandering in the community of Kashechewan had to be shot. More polar bears could be nearby. Kashechewan resident Brandon Spence spoke about the polar bear with the CBC's Marina von Stackelberg. 6:06

Listen to Brandon Spence describe the polar bear on Morning North.

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