Bear care cures
Formulas for sound sleeping in bear country

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 16/99) - More than one camper has lost sleep worrying about bears while overnighting in the Northern wilderness.

Being mindful of bears is an important part of being safe on the land, but Russell Manuel of Fort Good Hope says his concern doesn't go much farther than that.

"Go for what you went for and just enjoy it," said Manuel, who spends a lot of time on the land that is also home to black bears, brown bears and grizzlies.

"I don't let it bother me," said Manuel. "I make sure I secure my garbage, burn it, and keep my food safe." Manuel also said he sometimes takes the extra precaution of having a gun nearby when he goes to sleep.

Brown bears, black bears and grizzlies may not be much cause for concern, but polar bears sure are, said Jimmie Qappik of Grise Fiord.

"If I don't worry, I'm not careful," said Qappik. "You've got to have fear of polar bears."

Like Manuel, Qappik said a good rifle close at hand is the key to a good night's sleep. In the winter time, when he's travelling by dog team, Qappik stakes his dogs around his tent.

Geela Bijamini, who goes camping with Qappik, said another important thing people of the High Arctic community do is check out the surrounding territory when setting up a camp.

Her bear worries increased, she said, after reading about the recent attack near Rankin Inlet.

Gary Bristow said it isn't necessary to take any precautions when out on the land in the Holman area. As mayor, he orders all the bears away each summer.

Well, Bristow didn't exactly say he orders the bears out of town.

"We don't have to worry about that up here," he said. "There are no bears in summer, they all go north. Polar bears are all we get here and even in winter we don't get many of them."

Bristow said the people of Kugluktuk and Paulatuk have a lot more bears to worry about.

He's right, said Paulatuk hunter and guide Hank Wolki -- "bears are one thing you're sure to see when you travel around here."

The Paulatuk and Kugluktuk areas are home to Barrenland grizzlies, but Wolki said he never worries about them.

"I never really have that thought in my mind when I'm travelling," said Wolki, just back from a two-week trip.

One thing that helps Wolki sleep soundly is his safety gun. He said most people in the area use them, keeping a gun that can bring down a bear with one shot in their tent when they go to sleep.

Wolki has never been the target of an aggressive bear's attention, but his campsite has. Last year, he returned to his camp to find it destroyed by a bear. The animal tossed around his equipment, ripped open cans of beans and fruit, ate his syrup and chewed the tires of his ATV.

"I just told myself, 'If I catch you here again, you're my hide.'"