Every spring, sea ice travels down the northeast coast of Newfoundland on the Labrador Current and carries thousands of seals with it. The majestic polar bears’ main sources of food are these seals, so they make the journey down the coast with them. Polar bears have a lot of food in early spring when there is lots of sea ice, so they can easily move around to hunt seals. However, as spring turns into summer, the sea ice melts and they find themselves swimming to shore. During late spring, some polar bears have made it all the way down the coast to Fogo Island or Twillingate. This year in 2022, there have been a lot more polar bear sightings. One bear even made it all the way to Harbour Grace, which is on the Avalon Peninsula.
Polar bears have always made their journey back north over the land and are very rarely seen by people. However, on some occasions they end up walking through a community where they attract a lot of attention. Polar bears are not in the community for food, but the community is often located in their path on the way back north.
However, the problem is that people see the polar bear, and it attracts a crowd looking to see it or take pictures. Now we have a conflict where a polar bear can injure or kill someone. Sometimes the RCMP is called to the scene before wildlife conservation officers can access the situation. If the bear puts people in danger, the RCMP officer may have to shoot the bear – not because the bear is aggressive but because people want to get close, which is dangerous.
The wildlife conservation officers have a very difficult job when this happens. Most of the time, wildlife officers can take care of any issue with the use of bear bangers – which make a loud noise – or even rubber bullets. In most cases, polar bears stay away from people and a little guidance does the trick.
However, in some cases the polar bear ends up far south in a community and other measures must be taken, similarly to what happened this year in Harbour Grace when a polar bear had to be tranquilized and carried to St. Anthony on the north coast of Newfoundland.
After witnessing what is involved in relocating a polar bear, I have so much respect for what the wildlife conservation officers do. They truly put their lives on the line to save the lives of a polar bear and the residents of a community.
My first encounter with the Harbour Grace polar bear was scary, and lots of adrenalin was running through my body. While the polar bear was safely secure in its enclosure, it really felt like it was a scene from Jurassic Park. The polar bear was jumping down on the cage, making the loudest bangs and shaking the enclosure. I was thinking in the back of my mind that if it gets out, we are going to be in big trouble.
One on the main things that I have learned is that the wildlife officers act with absolute safety and professionalism in mind. They also really care for the well-being of the polar bear and do everything possible for its safe return.
Once the polar bear was released, it ran in my direction while looking right into the camera. The enclosure had some soil on the bottom, and it looked like it had had some fun playing with it. However, it got a nice bath once it reached the Atlantic Ocean. I nicknamed the polar bear "Muddle Puddles" like in the children’s TV show Peppa Pig. LOL
Please check out the video and pictures of the Harbour Grace polar bear release.
Polar Bear Release Video
Pictures from the Polar Bear release.
Polar bear tracks leading into the community of St. Anthony, Newfoundland
Carrying the polar bear to the northern point of Newfoundland to be released back to the sea ice.
Conservation officers removing straps and getting ready for the polar bear release.
A conservation officer giving me the thumbs up that everything is good to go!
The door just opens and the polar bear cautiously looks outside before leaving the enclosure.The conservation officer holds a bear banger gun which just makes a loud noise in case the bear requires some persuasion to leave the area. No bear banger or anything was used in the release as the bear just made its way safely back to the sea ice on its way back north.
The polar bear decides to go for it and starts to get down.
After the polar bear hits the snow, it doesn’t take long to make its way back to the ice.
Polar bear takes a peek back at us as it makes its way back north.
The polar bear is in the Strait of Belle Isle making its way to the sea ice.
The polar bear makes it to the sea ice and gives one final look before heading back to Labrador.
The Strait of Belle Isle where the polar bear has made it back to its natural habitat.