Coastal Labrador on alert after polar bears sighted roaming through town
ST. LEWIS, N.L. -- Coastal Labrador is on high alert after polar bears were spotted roaming through residential areas.
The provincial Land Resources Department issued a polar bear warning Thursday, confirming reports of sightings in St. Lewis and Charlottetown, N.L., on Wednesday and Thursday.
One man reported seeing a polar bear outside his shed earlier this week, according to an employee at the town of St. Lewis.
A statement from the department said it's believed the same bear was sighted in Charlottetown and St. Lewis.
"All residents of the north and south coasts of Labrador and the northern coast of the island of Newfoundland are advised to be cautious," the statement read.
Residents say sightings are not unusual at this time of year, but the department says once bears and their tracks are sighted, people should take extra care to protect pets, children and themselves.
In St. Lewis, weather-related road closures left the small community of about 200 people isolated for a few days, but a town employee says wildlife officials arrived there Friday morning.
Lawrence Rumbolt of St. Lewis saw large bear tracks outside his house on Wednesday night, leaving prints so large his first thought was that they were from snowshoes.
"He was right alongside the house," Rumbolt said. "He wasn't very far away, about 10 feet. He was pretty close."
Rumbolt followed the tracks to a nearby cove on Thursday morning, but he says he has not seen signs of the animal since.
Bear sightings are nothing new for the lifelong St. Lewis resident, who says he's encountered the beautiful but intimidating creatures a number of times over the years.
Once Rumbolt said he found himself a few feet from a polar bear on the way home from a friend's house.
And about six years ago, he said "the biggest bear (he'd) ever seen," which he estimated as weighing close to 1,000 pounds, paid a visit to his home.
He remembers the room went dark just before he saw the animal's face filling the small window.
"When I looked, he was looking in through the window and he had his nose up against the screen," Rumbolt said.
"I was right alongside him. I could have touched him with my hand."
The polar bear looked around the yard, poking into a parked truck and ripping the seat off a Ski-Doo before Rumbolt scared the bear off with a warning shot.
He said polar bears are striking to see but it's best to remain cautious as they can approach quickly and silently, especially when camouflaged by snow.
"They're a lovely bear to look at ... I've had them right up alongside me," he said. "But you've got to be careful what you're doing with them"
The land resources department urged residents in the area to keep pets inside, travel in groups and take caution with hunting and garbage disposal.
The department also asked people to report any further sightings to the Cartwright wildlife office.
- By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.