After a bear came into Rankin Inlet and several sightings have been reported around the community this summer, the Kangiqliniq Hunters and Trappers Organization (KHTO) has hired four bear monitors on day and night shifts for the next two weeks.
“As far as right now, that same polar bear hasn’t been spotted yet,” said Andre Aokout, manager of the KHTO, about the bear that came right into town on July 20. “We do have two bear monitors on the road right now for the day, then we have two more for the night crew.”
He said that a few bears have been spotted in the last several weeks, and another different bear – much plumper than the one that frightened locals – came just on the outskirts of town on July 21.
“Rankin doesn’t usually have a lot of bears during the summers, but this year happened to have quite a bit,” said Aokout.
The four bear monitors will be patrolling the town and cabin areas to make sure there are no bears around. Aokout said they could be extended beyond the two weeks, if need be.
“If it’s a dangerous, aggressive bear, it will be shot down,” he said. “But if it’s not dangerous or not coming into town, if it’s going on the outskirts and going by, the bear monitors will chase it out, make sure it goes down the coast or continue on whichever way it was going.”
That’s what happened with the plump July 21 bear, which was chased by one of the monitors in the direction of Diane River. Aokout said the predator had been eating some caribou carcasses.
The KHTO has also given the authority to shoot the bear that came into town July 20, though as of July 22, it hadn’t been spotted again since that evening. Aokout admitted it may be questionable to know which bear is which, but that the one that came into town was “dirty, skinny and (has) patchy fur,” and photo comparisons could prove if it’s sighted again.
“Last sighting of it, it was heading north, so it’s out of town range, somewhere in the cabins or following caribou carcasses that it finds along the way,” said Aokout.
The KHTO is ordering 300 bear bangers for community members to use for protection at their cabins or out on the land and while berry picking this summer.
Aokout said the influx of bears is not just affecting Rankin Inlet, but Arviat, Whale Cove and Chesterfield Inlet too.
“It’s rare for the bears to come right up the inlet here. We do have odd bears that come up but this year is quite a bit reports of polar bears on both sides of our bay,” he said.
He advises residents to stay safe, keep a lookout and keep children close.