Polar Bears are frequent visitors to Newfoundland, with most of them usually showing up in the late winter and early spring. With changes in arctic weather patterns and ice conditions, polar bears are being spotted more than ever before in Newfoundland. Specifically, ice conditions in the Labrador straight have a lot to do with this. The area has seen variable sea ice conditions in recent years because of climate change associated with weather pattern changes. Polar bears like to stay out on the sea ice, but sometimes they are forced onto land because of poor ice conditions, or when hunting conditions are less than ideal. Each year in Newfoundland, more and more opportunistic poplar bears are making their way inland.
On December 31st, 2019, the Newfoundland Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued an official polar bear warning for the community of Green Island Cove after confirmed sightings of a Polar Bear. Polar Bears are most frequently spotted on the Great Northern Penninsula but Polar Bears have been seen as far south as St. John’s on the southern Avalon Peninsula, Fogo Island, the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, and pretty much every coastal community in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s easy to forget that Polar Bears are actually a marine mammal since they spend most of their time living and hunting on the ocean.
Aside from Humans, polar bears have no natural predators. They sit right up there on the food chain, and they are really great at hunting. Polar bears can smell you for hundreds of kilometers and have been known to swim unassisted for over one hundred kilometers. They have webbed paws, can hold their breath for over 10 min, and hunt everything from seals to whales. If you are another animal, a polar bear may consider you to be food, humans included.
As of today, the Newfoundland Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to monitor the Polar Bear Warning on the Great Northern Peninsula and encourages people in and around the Green Island Cove area to take extra precautions like traveling in groups, making sure their garbage is properly stored, keeping dogs on a leash, and staying away from obvious attractants like animal carcasses.
“Residents should keep pets inside or under close supervision, travel in groups when possible, and never approach a fresh kill or carcass,” said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans during their New Year’s Day press release “Under no circumstances should residents approach a polar bear”.
Polar Bears are beautiful animals, but they’re not all cute and cuddly like the polar bears you see in seasonal coca-cola ads. Polar Bears can be extremely dangerous and have injured and killed many people. An average of two people are killed yearly by polar bears in Canada.
If you spot any polar bears, especially in and around the Green Bay, Green Island Cove, and Roddickton-Bide Arm area, be sure to report sightings to the local Newfoundland Forestry and Wildlife office on their Emergency Line: 709-632-9897