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Wildlife officers shoot polar bear in Iqaluit park

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 30, 2008

IQALUIT - Some young Nakasuk school students found a little more than they were looking for during a recent scavenger hunt.

A group from Grades 1 and 2 had their afternoon activities at Sylvia Grinnell Park cut short by the appearance of a polar bear nearby, which was shot by wildlife officers shortly afterwards.

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Iqaluit resident Elizabeth Qammaniq harvests a piece of polar bear downtown on June 25. The male bear was shot by wildlife officers at Sylvia Grinnell Park earlier that day. - Karen Mackenzie/NNSL photo

"The kids were already heading out, when two (park workers) started waving their arms. They were yelling 'There's a polar bear, run back to the pavilion,'" said student support worker Jason Rochon.

After gathering up the stray youngsters, the group hunkered down in the park cabin for some story time until the situation was resolved.

"The kids weren't very scared," Rochon said, adding most seemed more eager to look for the bear out the window than worry about its proximity.

While school officials did start planning for an armed escort back to their buses, it became unnecessary when the bear was shot, according to Rochon.

The male bear was spotted by park summer students, who warned the visitors and then called in wildlife officers, according to Alden Williams, conservation officer 3 in Iqaluit.

It was shot at 11:30 a.m. in the middle of Sylvia Grinnell Park, on a hill on the Iqaluit side of the river, about 400 yards away from a group of tents.

"Because there were people in the park we didn't want to detour the bear. There were just too many people around," Williams said.

The Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association (HTA) had one polar bear tag left over this year, which has now been applied to this bear.

It kept the hide and distributed the meat at four corners downtown.

David Veevee, who stopped by the site as residents cut up the steaming meat, pointed to the bear's teeth, which were ground down to stubs and stained with age.

"It's got to be a pretty old bear," he said.

Williams estimated the bear, which was about 2.5 metres tall, to have been about 20 years old. It was healthy and not too skinny, he said.

Only about six bears have been spotted this close to Iqaluit over the past six years, and in each case the bear was shot, according to Alden.

"The ones we chase off will return once or twice, and then we have to put them down anyway," he said.