Field notes from Arviat: Playing ‘cat and mouse’ with bears
For the fourth year, WWF is proud to support successful efforts to keep people and bears safe in the Hamlet of Arviat, Nunavut. That means hiring Leo Ikakhik, an experienced local, to act as polar bear monitor, patrolling the streets of the community all night during peak polar bear season, from mid-September through mid-December. With less Arctic sea ice habitat available, more bears are entering communities, posing a threat to everyone’s safety. Leo sees what few Canadians get to see, and we’re proud to share his experiences from 2013, captured in his nightly field notes.
Appendix A: WWF-Arviat Polar Bear-Human Conflict Reduction Project
Field Notes by Leo Ikakhik (Polar Bear Monitor)
(Transcribed by Keith Collier)
Sept. 28, 2013. 1 polar bear sighted near the old air strip on the north side, eating whale carcass. Jumped in the water, swam across the inlet but it wasn’t gone for long. While I was down at the end of town the same bear came back, it landed near Bob L’s bunk house, went near the health centre in between a couple of houses, but before it ran into people on the street it turned around and went back in the water and swam to the other side of the inlet. Time was around 4:00am. 6:00am came back one more time right by the Peterhead boat, but jumped right back in the water. Did not come back for a while. Same bear came back 3 times in different places.
Sept. 29, 2013. 12:46am – One bear sighted east end of town, north side of the shore, big male. This one loves a cat and mouse game. Fired a few cracker shells at him, it jumped in the water. 1:26am – same bear came back not long after I chased it out. Same location, fired a few cracker shells and he went back in the water and I shined my spotlight on him ‘til he vanished into the dark. 3:15am – same bear, same location. I think the reason the bear was coming back was too much whale blubber smell by the dogs. Friendly giant, being kind to the dogs and cooperating when it’s time for him to leave. 3:25 am – same bear, I think he was having a ball being chased and hearing bear bangers going off right next to him. 5:30am – same bear, did not make it to the dogs because I cut him off before he reached the dogs, went back in the water, vanished into the dark. 6:40am – this bear was having a ball being chased by the Honda with cracker shells going off with a loud bang. 7:15am – OK bear enough of this ****. You just created a cot song, goes like this: “The bear came back, and just couldn’t stay away.” Three more bears late in the morning on the east end of the airport. I chased them south. Bear chase total was 10.