Polar bear shot by Newfoundland RCMP on Fogo Island
An artist's studio is seen on Fogo Island, N.L. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / HO-Mike Wert)
Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, May 2, 2016 3:31PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 2, 2016 4:56PM EDT
FOGO ISLAND, N.L. -- Warning shots and a lot of shouting did nothing to scare off a polar bear as it lumbered toward RCMP officers and a small crowd of onlookers on Fogo Island, an RCMP officer said Monday.
"He was walking towards me on all fours," said Cpl. Shaun Coady. "It was very close. If it decided to charge me, it was within easy striking range.
The fully grown bear was brought down with a .308-calibre rifle as it came out of the water at the fish plant in Deep Bay, Coady said.
About a quarter of the community's 100 residents had come for a look as news of the bear spread. Police cleared the area before firing, and the incident was over in a few minutes, Coady said.
Melissa Waterman had called the Mounties after doing a double-take around 9:30 a.m. local time as she looked out the window of a home near the fish plant.
"I said, 'There's something floating in the water.' It looked like a piece of wood to me at first. Then I said, 'No. There's a head on that!'
"He was just down there swimming around."
Waterman said the bear seemed interested in seal pelts tied to the Deep Bay wharf.
"They had no other choice but to put the animal down," she said. "It's scary, of course it is, but it's beautiful to see. It's a sin they had to kill it."
Waterman said the officers could not have allowed the bear -- a top-of-the-food-chain predator -- to roam Fogo Island, with a population of about 2,400 people across 11 communities. She had walked her three-year-old son to her mother's place less than an hour before seeing the bear in the water nearby.
"It's nice to look at from a distance but I was just thinking, if me and my son were walking up the road a little bit later or something, who knows?"
It's not unusual to spot the extremely dangerous predators along Newfoundland and Labrador's eastern coast as they hunt seals on pack ice in spring.
The bears are part of the Davis Strait population, which is not considered endangered.
Coady says police on Fogo Island don't have access to tranquilizer darts. Conservation officers might have been able to try that approach but are based in Gambo, N.L. -- a ferry ride away, Coady said.
"It was not an option."
The bear carcass measures about two metres or six feet from tail to snout and weighs around 180 kilograms or 400 pounds, Coady estimated. Police along with Fisheries and Oceans officers used a winch to get the bear into the back of a pickup truck and take it back to the Fogo Island RCMP detachment.
Coady said it will be turned over to wildlife officials for examination and then likely stuffed.
"It's certainly not something you encounter every day and not a position we wanted to be put in, to shoot an animal -- especially a polar bear. It's not our first choice, by any stretch."