TALOYOAK, Nunavut - Residents in a remote Arctic hamlet are baffled and saddened by the number of hungry polar bear cubs that have wandered into their community since the fall and have had to be shot.
Six bears have been spotted in the Nunavut community of Taloyoak since late September, said Bob Lyall, who works with the local Hunters and Trappers Organization.
"They're scavenging," he said Wednesday.
"They're nothing to fool with. It's a scary situation when it happens."
All the bears were between one and two years old, an age when polar bears are normally still with their mothers.
"Usually, a 20-month to 22-month-old polar bear cub in that part of the Arctic is still with its mother," said Pete Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund, which runs programs in Nunavut to help bears and communities co-exist. "It'll be kicked out next spring on the sea ice."
Taloyoak's visitors can barely be described as cubs. Lyall said the biggest of them was more than two metres long.
"They're not cuddly little Coca-Cola bears," he said. "They're hungry bears coming through town and looking for food.
"They're trying to get into shacks where (people's) meat is stored, looking into windows, wandering through town ... "
One was spotted in town just as children in school were about to be let out for recess. The kids were kept indoors.
Construction on a new power plant was stopped when a bear showed up near the site. On Halloween, armed Canadian Rangers patrolled the streets to keep everyone safe.
Lyall said there are several theories as to why the cubs are showing up.
Some say the mothers have been killed by male bears, as sometimes happens. Others say a moratorium on hunting a bear population to Taloyoak's north has increased numbers, forcing some to move out.
Ewins said the cause could be disease or an accident.
"You can speculate until the ice comes 'round again."
Ewins said the sightings might make Taloyoak a candidate for a program similar to the one his group helps run in the community of Arviat, along the west of Hudson Bay. That hamlet used to have as many as eight defence kills of polar bears a year; it hasn't had one in the last four years since the program began.
Taloyoak is used to polar bears and has an annual hunting quota of 25. The six kills since September will come off that quota. Lyall said no hunter is happy about having to kill a cub.
"The meat's tender, though," Lyall said. "We like it boiled and there's a resemblance to pork."
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton
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