The Kivalliq came dangerously close to suffering yet another tragedy at the paws and jaws of a polar bear when a young female bear hanging around for most of the day began stalking Jon Powell as he tended his fish nets at Tent City in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 25.

Jon Powell displays the polar bear he was forced to bring down as a defense kill when the bear attacked him while tending his fish nets at Tent City in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 25.
photo courtesy Jon Powell

Powell said he was aware the bear had been spotted in the vicinity of Tent City on the northwest side of Rankin and was believed to be hanging around the area when he went to pull his nets.

He said he was on his days off from work and was out fishing with his family when the encounter occurred.

I knew the bear was out there but, as far as I knew at the time, it was at a different side of the island from where my nets were,” said Powell.

It was low tide, so you have to check your nets. What are you going to do, just leave the fish out there for the seagulls or whatever?

Obviously I was aware a bear was in the area, so I was cautious of my surroundings but I didn’t know exactly where it was.”

Powell said he emptied his fish from the nets, put them in a tub, cleaned his nets, and was walking up the shoreline when a neighbour alerted him that the bear was coming out of the water behind him.

He said the bear was, basically, trying to sneak up behind him.

It’s a predator, right? So, basically, it was doing its thing.

There were about 150 yards between us when I first looked at the bear. It was coming right up on my heels.

I stopped right away, put my fish tub down, grabbed my scope and rifle and looked to see what the bear was going to do, if it was going to leave me alone.

By this point my neighbour, Richard MacKenzie, had come down to warn me and he had his rifle too. The bear continued to stare at me and it just kept coming.”

Powell said the bear was a young female, about two years of age.

He said his Inuit relatives told him that’s almost always a dangerous nuisance bear so he shot it.

It’s already stolen fish from others and it knows where to go now, so it’s definitely a dangerous nuisance.

It’s not like I went down there to intentionally shoot a bear. I wasn’t doing that at all. It was 100 per cent a defense kill.

When it became obvious it wasn’t going to stop I shot it twice to bring it down, and I immediately notified Wildlife and the Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO) of what had happened.

We put it on some plywood, pulled it up on the shore before high tide came in, and sat and waited for wildlife officers or HTO members to come out.”

Powell said the wildlife officers took the bear and distributed its meat among the people of the community.

He said the matter was still being investigated to substantiate that it was a defense kill by looking at what, if anything, could have been done to deter the bear, and, possibly, why Wildlife wasn’t alerted to it being around the community earlier.

I haven’t received any negative reaction from the community over what happened. Everybody seemed happy the bear was gone and they were safe.

A lot of people I know, especially the families at Tent City, were happy because the bear wasn’t going away. Really, I was surprised that Wildlife or the HTO weren’t out there a lot sooner.

I could have deterred the bear and maybe tried to scare it somehow. But then, if I did that, and two hours later it goes around the corner and kills someone, it’s on my conscience.

Given the circumstances, I’m confident I made the right decision.”

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Darrell Greer

Darrell Greer is Editor of Kivalliq News