Lingering late season sea ice brings polar bear visitor to northern Newfoundland

Polar bear season for St. Lunaire-Griquet Newfoundland ran from 6 March to 10 June this year — three long months when polar bears came to visit the community during the season when bears are usually occupied with feeding on young seals and mating.

Newfoundland polar bear 10 June 2018_Iceberg Festival Committee_Thresa Burden photo

Below is a map of the region: St. Lunaire-Griquet is at the tip of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, just north of St. Anthony (where some of the action in my polar bear attack thriller, EATEN, takes place):

Saint Lunaire Griquet Newfoundland location_Google maps

As of yesterday (June 10), when the last sighting of a fat and healthy polar bear took place, there was still quite a mass of thick first year ice (>1.2 m thick) off the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, amongst a field of icebergs:

Hudson Bay North daily stage of development 2018 June 10 ice warning

The first sighting in the area this year was back in early March, which I blogged about here. Fortunately, the Davis Strait bears that occupy the East Coast pack ice are usually well feed at this time of year and seldom pose a serious threat to humans: the fact that visitors ashore are often easily pursuaded to leave (or do so on their own) suggests they are more curious than hungry.

Here’s one account of yesterday’s incident, from a report published by the CBC (11 June 2018), my bold:

In other polar bear news, the Iceberg Festival held its annual polar bear dip this weekend — and one ursine visitor took the event very literally.

Just a few hours after the dip closed out the Iceberg Festival, held yearly on the Northern Peninsula, a polar bear was seen on shore in St. Lunaire-Griquet.

“A crowd gathered quite fast, actually,” said Damien Bartlett, who was in the area, told the St. John’s Morning Show.

Bartlett, of L’Anse aux Meadows, said higher numbers of polar bears than usual have been spotted in the area this year, and that sightings both started earlier and — with this weekend’s visitor — are continuing later than average. There is more pack ice in the water around St. Lunaire-Griquet than usual for June, which likely explains the bear’s arrival.

Once it came ashore, the bear peeked into a shed, swam across to a small island in the harbour, climbed around on some old boats and generally provided entertainment.

Glacial giants drift down in time for the Iceberg Festival on the Northern Peninsula

“He got up and put on quite a show for the crowd that gathered, but he kept his distance,” Bartlett said. “He was quite calm.”

The bear eventually got back in the water and swam away without incident, he said, but definitely left an impression.

“I was talking to a couple of tourists there. They seemed very excited to see a polar bear,” he said.

“They weren’t expecting to come to L’Anse aux Meadows and see a polar bear.”

For perspective, see also this report from the 2017 East Coast polar bear season, an especially busy one for Newfoundland and Labrador: East Coast crawling with polar bears since early March thanks to the pack ice

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