In Churchill, Manitoba there is a different kind of crime: stalking polar bears.
When you live in the far north of Canada, you are bound to have some Arctic mammalian neighbors. Churchill, Manitoba is aptly nicknamed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and rightly so, since every November the 800 residents are outnumbered by these hungry animals weighing half a ton. That’s where the polar bear police come in.
The animals gather in the last point on the continent to wait for the ice in Hudson Bay to freeze so they can have easier access to seals. While they are waiting, they ransack the town of Churchill because, well, they’re just hungry.
Since the main “culprits” of crime in Churchill seem to be these Arctic animals, the town has created the polar bear alert program, run by Bob Windsor, to alert the local police of polar bear trouble.
Outside Magazine got to ride along with Bob while policing his town, speaking with him about what life is like living with polar bears so close to the Arctic circle.
Bob told Outside that the hardest part about finding the bears is during blizzards. Since bears frequently come into town, it is difficult to patrol when you can’t even find them in a white out. He carries a “scare” pistol that has screamer cartridges that also shoot sparks. If that doesn’t work, he has a shotgun. He shoots cracker shells just above the bear and not behind them so it doesn’t scare them into charging. He also uses rubber bullets and paintball guns.
In his six years as head of the “bear police,” Bob has shot two bears. One happened last year when a bear attacked, and severely injured, two people. When he came on scene after the call, he could hear screaming from inside the house while the bear came out with blood all over its muzzle. The general policy in Churchill is that if someone is mauled, injured or killed, then the bear must be “permanently removed,” which either means killed or put in a zoo.
Sometimes the bears get put in Polar Bear Jail which opened in 1980. Over 1,4oo bears have been held in the facility before they can be relocated farther out in the wild.
Bob will get about 300 bear calls a year. He has had about 25 requests this year alone for the creation of reality television shows that capture the polar bear mania. Bob has politely refused every offer. He can’t imagine Churchill swarming with cameras and crew.
For now, he is content with keeping his town safe and doing the bear patrolling he loves.
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[H/T Outside Magazine]