Natural Resources urging residents to keep a safe distance
© Adam Randell photo
A Polar Bear off St. Anthony's Fishing Point in March.
Two confirmed polar bear sightings on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula created a lot of curiosity for residents and it has the Department of Natural Resources concerned.
George Gibbons, Northern Peninsula district manager for Natural Resources, understands the fascination with the majestic animals, but suggests people need to step back and let trained professionals handle the situation.
The first sighting occurred, last Saturday, after a polar bear crossed St. Anthony Bight, entered the water and swam towards Fishing Point.
Word spread like wild fire on social media, and soon the point was packed with spectators looking to catch a glimpse of the animal.
Because of irregular snow conditions, sections of Fishing Point road were down to one lane. As the bear neared land, the RCMP decided to evacuate the area and close the road.
“I must say we get great cooperation from the RCMP,” said Gibbons. “Sometimes its harder dealing with the public than the bear, and the RCMP is always there to help.”
But even then curiosity created problems. Near the road entrance, as people were trying to leave, others were trying to edge their way onto Fishing Point for a look. It bottlenecked the entrance and it took some time before all vehicles were cleared.
After landing at Fishing Point, Gibbons said the bear was soon on the move again.
“It swam off again towards Cremaillere Harbour,” Gibbons said. “We stayed around until dark. We thought about heading out there on snowmobile but was concerned people would have chased us out.”
That was the last the bear was heard of.
There were rumors of polar bears in nearby Goose Cove over that weekend, but Gibbons said those were unconfirmed by the department.
The second sighting occurred on Tuesday, when the Department received word that a snowplow had struck a polar bear on Raleigh road in the early morning hours.
“We were quite concerned about having to deal with an injured bear,” said Gibbons. “But there was no sign of blood, so we put on our snowshoes and tracked it a short ways.”
It appeared to be walking fine, so the two responding officers returned for their snowmobiles and continued the tracking process.
It was immediately noticed that the conservation officers weren’t the only ones tracking the bear.
“A snowmobiler was going in (heavily wooded areas) that we wouldn’t even attempt because if you get in there, bogged down, and the polar bear is there, you’re in trouble,” he said.
As the two followed the tracks towards Pistolet Bay, Gibbons made another discovery.
“Someone else was tailing it,” he said.
After hitting Pistolet Bay, Gibbons said they soon caught sight of the animal.
“The bear was heading towards Cook’s Harbour and Burnt Cape,” he said. “We assume he was heading for Labrador.”
Polar Bear sightings on the peninsula aren’t that uncommon for the area and Gibbons expects there’s another couple of incidents to come.
Last year, he said the conservations officer had between eight and 10 incidents to deal with.
But just because they are a regular spring occurrence, Gibbons said people need to be cautious around the animal.
He strongly suggests people stay back for their own safety and contact Natural Resource immediately, so the animal can be monitored.
“It’s a safety issue for the public and the bear,” he said. “If a bear gets stressed out, starts to panic and charges, we might have to put it down. And that’s the last thing we want to do.”