'I could tell it was a vicious bear'Taloyoak man defends himself against predator at fish camp
Northern News Services
Monday, October 2, 2017
In the faintest light of dawn, Nauyaq Ugyuk stared down a polar bear at close range on Sept. 10.
A male polar bear, about two metres long, came right at Nauyaq Ugyuk in the early morning of September 10, forcing Ugyuk to fire his rifle. - NNSL file photo
At about 4:30 a.m. that morning, their dog, which accompanied Ugyuk and his wife Jeannie to their fishing camp, started barking.
"I jumped out of my bed and grabbed my rifle right away," Ugyuk recalled.
Without a scope or his glasses, he aimed his rifle as the large carnivore strode directly toward him.
When it got within three to four metres, Ugyuk could clearly hear the bear breathing and growling.
"If I missed the first shot, I'm not sure if I would have had time for a second," he said.
The harrowing encounter occurred while the Ugyuks were at their fishing camp along the ocean shore, approximately 10 km across from Taloyoak, for the weekend. They have a tent frame there and they went to bed after a day of netting Arctic char in the ocean.
When the dog raised the alarm, Ugyuk exited the tent, looked straight ahead and saw nothing in what little light existed. He then looked to the left and could make out the outline of a polar bear, a male about two metres long, coming around from the back of the tent.
"As soon as he saw me he started making that calling sound (growling)... that sound when they want to fight," said Ugyuk. "It kept walking. It didn't run, but it was walking and not stopping at all... I could tell it was a vicious bear."
With the predator closing in on him, Ugyuk raised his rifle and peered through the scope.
"I couldn't see anything through it - it either was too close or it was too dark (outside)," he said, adding that in his earlier scramble to respond that early morning, he was forced to aim without the eyeglasses he normally wears.
"I pointed my rifle towards its neck and I shot it," Ugyuk said.
His shot was good. The bullet struck the bear in the neck, dropping it, but because the bullet hit bone, the bear wasn't dead. Another couple of shots finished it off.
It was the closest he has ever been to a live polar bear, other than seeing one right outside a cabin window years ago.
In 15 to 20 years of going to that campsite, he said he'd never before seen a polar bear in that particular area. Nevertheless, he always carries a rifle with him on such outings and he's been advising others to do the same because of chance encounters like this one.
"You should always be ready for any danger," he said.
Ugyuk kept a bit of bear meat for himself and his family but gave out much of it to others in Taloyoak.
"We do that with any animal that we catch that people haven't had it for a while, and we know people who'd like some. We share it with the community," he said.
Ugyuk chuckled at the idea that his dog deserved some of the bear meat as well.
"It's a good thing he woke us up," he said.