An Iglulik elder who shot a mother polar bear and her cub within municipal boundaries did the right thing, says Iglulik Mayor Celestino Uyarak.
“Any polar bears, cubs or not, that is threatening local people, hunting ground or shack, the polar bear would have to be put down,” Uyarak said, adding that the intruders had wandered into a resident’s porch prior to being shot. “I would have defended this elder or any person that was on the defence kill.”
The two bears were killed over the Christmas holidays and the elder subsequently received several phone calls from outside the community criticizing his actions, according to the mayor.
Polar bears also pose challenges by digging up and consuming hunters’ walrus caches buried outside the community, the mayor noted.
A Naujaat man and an Arviat man were killed in separate encounters with polar bears last year.
The Department of Environment conducted its own investigation of the Iglulik incident and a conservation officer said it was an acceptable defence kill, the mayor stated.
However, a spokesperson from the Department of Environment told Nunavut News that the investigation is still ongoing, therefore no details would be released until a conclusion has been reached.
Even though there’s a conservation officer in Iglulik, Uyarak said it’s not always advisable to wait for the officer to show up if bears pose an immediate threat to human life. Conversely, it’s essential for residents to exercise utmost caution when firing rifles in the community, the mayor said. In the December incident, the bears were killed near some teachers’ residences, on the edge of town.
The elder couldn’t be reached for comment. However, he recently went on community radio to explain the circumstances so local residents could better understand his predicament, according to Uyarak.
“I spoke with this elder and he says things have calmed down, things are better,” he said.
Although the conservation officer seized the predators’ hides, the polar bear meat was distributed within the community.
“The elders were very grateful, not only the elders but everyone was very grateful because of this meat.”