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Grizzlies spotted around Inuvik

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer is not the only season returning to the Inuvik area in earnest lately - it's also bear season.

Four sightings have been reported to the Inuvik branch of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) since early May, and these sightings are not expected to wane any time soon.

"There's always grizzly bears around Inuvik," said Toby Halle, renewable resources officer for the Inuvik region.

"People should always be aware that we are in bear country and we are home to both black and grizzly bears and at any given time or place you could encounter one - even in town," he said.

This lesson rings true for Inuvik resident Jonathon Michel, who had a close encounter with a grizzly bear while walking his dog near Jak Park on June 11.

"I was going for a walk with my dogs in Jak Park, and I was going along the boardwalk path. About halfway through the walk, I had an uncomfortable rock in my shoe," he said.

Once he had stopped and removed his shoe, Michel heard loud noises coming from the bush, and then a grizzly bear appeared out of the forest onto the path about 35 feet in front of him.

"At first, I thought it was one of my dogs and I very quickly realized that it was too big to be one of my dogs," he said.

One of his dogs, a large German shepherd, stood between Michel and the bear. Upon seeing the grizzly, the dog did not move and started barking. The bear observed the two, charged toward them for about 10 feet, and then took off into the bush on the opposite side of the trail.

The whole encounter took about 15 seconds, said Michel.

This is not Michel's first time seeing a grizzly bear up close, and he has had training in how to handle bear encounters, so he says he wasn't too shaken by the events.

"It has definitely renewed a healthy fear of large wildlife," he said. "I wasn't expecting to have such a close encounter."

Of the bear occurrences responded to by ENR officers this year, at least one has been within town limits, said Halle, who responded to a grizzly bear call on the east end of town over the weekend.

The best way to deal with a bear sighting in or near town is to contact ENR through their 24-hour bear hotline at 678-0289 and allow them to come and deter the bear for you, said Halle.

"If you don't have that immediate option, the best way to deter a bear is loud noise," he said.

It is legal to shoot and kill a bear to protect lives and property, said Halle. Protocol for when ENR officers will kill a bear is if it is found in town, or if it is exhibiting dangerous behaviour. So far this year, ENR has not destroyed any bears near Inuvik.

Sharing recreational space with bears shouldn't deter those who want to get out and enjoy the land, but extra precautions, such as bear response training, cleaning up garbage and food, and making noise should be taken, said Halle.

"I wouldn't say be worried, just be bear aware," he said. "Be aware that there is the possibility of encountering a bear."

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