Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Marauding bear in Churchill 'jail'

Enjoyed moose meat in one break-in

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Conservation officers prepare to cart the tranquillized polar bear, guilty of several break-ins, to the Churchill holding facility.

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Conservation officers prepare to cart the tranquillized polar bear, guilty of several break-ins, to the Churchill holding facility.

He snagged a moose-meat meal, but a four-legged felon is now in custody in Churchill.

A 400-kilogram adult male polar bear was the culprit in a number of break-ins to cabins and sheds in the Goose Creek subdivision outside Churchill in the past few weeks.

Manitoba conservation officers tranquillized the bear Monday about five kilometres outside town near a tent he ripped into that was owned by a dog-sled-tour operator. The bear was airlifted to Churchill's polar bear holding facility, where he'll stay until Hudson Bay freezes enough for him to hunt seals.

There are 11 bears in the Churchill facility, which can hold up to 28.

"It's approximately a seven- or eight-year-old bear and weighed 882 pounds, and he was in really good shape. He's a pretty fat bear," said Bob Windsor, the Churchill district supervisor with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.

"Knowing it will go into buildings, there's a definite concern on our behalf for the safety of people. They're pretty smart animals, and if they do get food by doing a certain activity, the chance of them repeating that type of activity is fairly good."

While these incidents occur every year, Windsor said seven in the same area in a short span was the most he encountered in his five years in Churchill. The bear hit the tent after six raids at Goose Creek, located 10 kilometres outside Churchill with about 20 cabins, between Oct. 3 and Oct. 21. In that time, officers twice set live traps and made seven helicopter searches for the bear.

Windsor said officers located the animal after following tracks near the tent leading from Goose Creek. Other evidence included blood on a bear-paw print on broken glass at a cabin that had been broken into a few days ago.

"We didn't know (at first) if it was the right bear or not, but there was a pretty good chance and that was the best opportunity we had to get this bear, so we made the decision to dart the bear (Monday)," he said. "Looking at the bear, you could see some clean cuts on the pads, so we knew we had the right bear."

The bear had eluded officers because some of the incidents were reported days later. Monday's report of the ripped-up tent was received shortly after it occurred, so the bear was still in the area.

On Oct. 12, the animal had a good Thanksgiving dinner in a shed.

"A person had a moose hanging in the shed, in quarters. It (the bear) had taken two quarters of moose. One was gone and the other was found fairly close by, but half-eaten."

This bear was known to authorities, Windsor said, as he had been caught three previous times, including twice in a culvert trap.

Bears are tagged when first captured by provincial or federal wildlife services and information kept in a database about their activities.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2013 A8

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