From CBC News late yesterday (28 February 2019) comes the news that a polar bear seen skulking around the homes of a small coastal town in Labrador this week has had residents on edge and authorities on high alert. If tragedy struck, the St. Lewis road was blocked by snow and the only way in or out was by helicopter. Message: polar bears are highly dangerous and a bear prowling a community is a very real threat to safety.
According to a CTV News follow-up, while the road to St. Lewis was cut off because of a recent snowstorm for most of the week, wildlife officers were able to get in today (Friday 1 March). Sighting about 100km north in Charlottetown earlier in the week are believed to be the same bear.
The last sighting of the animal was Thursday morning (28 Feb), so the bear may now have left of its own accord. No one seems to have captured a photo.
However, the fear felt by residents of St. Lewis (population 200) in this story is palpable, especially after the terrifying visuals from the well-publicized invasion by more than 50 polar bears at Belushaya Guba on Novaya Zemlya last month.
CBC News, “Polar bears on the prowl in cut-off Labrador community” (28 February 2019):
Polar bear sightings in St. Lewis, a town on Labrador’s south coast that’s currently cut off from the rest of the province due to a road closure, have prompted officials to place helicopters on standby in the event of an attack or emergency.
The Department of Land Resources confirmed reports of recent polar bear sightings both in St. Lewis and in Charlottetown, about 100 kilometres further north.
A bear was last seen in St. Lewis at 5 a.m. Thursday, while the last report in Charlottetown happened at 10 a.m., a department spokesperson said.
Vanessa Rolfe, who works in the town office in St. Lewis — home to about 200 people — said she first heard of the prowling animals’ presence after one resident warned her to be careful driving home earlier this week.
“There was a polar bear outside his shed door,” she said.
The man “just caught a little glimpse of something on the side of his eye, and when he turned around there was a huge polar bear walking by.”
The town is nervous, especially since most houses are “quite separated,” she said — and with the bad weather, they’re completely isolated from help.
“Our roads are closed, so no one can get in here,” Rolfe said.
A number of residents have either seen the animal or noticed signs of it, she said.
“He’s been roaming around for the last two days now … everyone kinda got their pets in their house, and their children,” she said. “It’s a scary situation.”
Rolfe said another resident discovered paw prints in the snow outside his house and marks where the bear had slid down a snow bank.
“People are kind of used to it around here, but at the same time, it’s terrifying.”
Sea ice conditions at 23 February (just before these incidents began and likely when the bears came ashore) but note this ice is mobile pack ice that moves with winds and currents. Grey ice (dark purple) is thick enough for polar bears to walk on: