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Rogue bear returns

Philippe Morin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 15, 2007

AKLAVIK - A curious polar bear surprised people in Aklavik on Oct. 6, as it took a swim near the community.

Amy Thompson, who works for the Gwich'in Renewable Resource Board in Inuvik and happened to be in Aklavik, said it was the same bear which visited Fort McPherson in early August.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

This polar bear was caught on film by 16-year-old Matthew Noland in Aklavik Oct. 6. The same bear was captured at Fort McPherson Aug. 10 and relocated north. - photo courtesy of Matthew Noland

"It's the same one, we could see the radio collar on it," she said. "Word got around town quickly, and everybody brought their cameras and binoculars. It was quite the event."

Many residents in Aklavik couldn't remember the last time a polar bear approached the community.

"I've lived here my whole life and I have never heard of one, so that's 47 years," said Eugene Pascal of the Hunters and Trappers Committee.

Larry Noland, who is the new pastor at the Aklavik Baptist church, said it was indeed a strange occurrence.

"We were in the house that morning, and somebody knocked on the door. They said very excitedly, 'there's a bear in the river,' and we got our coats and cameras," he said.

Noland's son Matthew said this polar bear was the second he'd ever seen - the first being at Sea World in Florida, where the Nolands are originally from.

Aklavik recreation co-ordinator Dean McLeod said it was the first time he had heard of a polar bear in the hamlet.

"It was swimming in the river and everyone was just watching it," he said.

Pastor Noland added the bear seemed undisturbed by all the attention.

"It put on a show for everyone, I think," he said with a laugh.

Ron Morrison, who is superintendent of Environment and Natural resources in the Inuvik region, said the bear was tranquilized.

It was then fitted into a sling and transported via a half-hour helicopter ride north to the Arctic coast.

Wildlife officers were prevented from bringing the bear any further because the tranquilizers don't last long, he said.

"You don't want the bear to wake up in a sling when it's being moved, so we're limited," he said.

Morrison added the bear's radio collar is still active, so wildlife officers will know if it returns.

This marks the second strange encounter for Aklavik this season, as a beluga whale was harvested outside the community Sept. 22.

Before this polar bear appeared in Fort McPherson in early August, the most recent encounter had been in Tsiigehtchic in 1995.