Polar bear sightings in Newfoundland and Labrador are not a rarity for the spring of the year, but it is certainly not commonplace either. The massive white creatures are known to ride some of the ice floes from the north to the island and mainland portions of the province.
They can create quite a buzz in and around the communities they sometimes visit, but getting too close can be a dangerous venture. However, done so at a close distance, the sightings can be captured forever by amateur photographers and videographers.
In March 2012, near St. Anthony, a polar bear came right up to a parked truck, with a few people talking only about 20 or 30 feet away. In April 2011, another of the large bears roamed throughout streets and yards in the town. Like the one this week in St. Anthony, both of those were tranquilized or trapped by conservation officers from the Department of Natural Resources and relocated via helicopter to Belle Isle.
According to the department, anyone who encounters a polar bear should remain calm, give the animal space and back away — never run — to get out of the situation. If people must speak in the presence of a bear, they should do so calmly and firmly and avoid direct eye contact with the dangerous animal.
In 2011, provincial conservation officer Ray Norman — who had more than 35 years experience working with polar bears — told The Western Star he had seen some close calls and frightening moments while dealing with the animals. But, he said nobody in his presence had ever been injured working with one.
The most important thing for that to continue is for officers and the public to continue to be careful in their presence, he said.
In April 2011, there were also polar bear sightings in the Roddickton-Main Brook area and another in Conche the same week as the one in St. Anthony.
Norman said two to three calls per year is usually the norm. He said the animal typically stays on land for a day or two at the most before returning to the ice floes. Despite the public interest it sometimes attracts, there are usually no incidents. However, there has been cases where a bear has damaged cabins or buildings.
If anybody sees a polar bear, they should call the nearest conservation, natural resources, or fisheries office or the RCMP.