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The travelling polar bear was spotted by motorists on the Dempster Highway about 100 kilometres south of Inuvik Aug. 3. - photo courtesy of Pierre Castonguay

Polar bear wanders down the Dempster

Jessica Klinkenberg
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

INUVIK - Environment and Natural Resources officers captured a polar bear 1 kilometre outside of Fort McPherson on Aug. 10.

The bear was first spotted on the Dempster Highway 100 kilometres south of Inuvik on Aug. 3, then at the Peel River crossing on Aug. 9.

Pierre Castonguay was travelling the Dempster Highway from Inuvik to Fort McPherson on Aug. 3 around 7 p.m. when he saw the bear near Rabbit Creek.

"I stopped there and grabbed my camera," he said.

He approached the animal in his vehicle.

"When I got a bit closer I noticed it was a very pale grizzly," he said of his original assessment.

"I had a chance to observe it for a couple of minutes. It was sniffing around and he was looking very hungry."

Another vehicle approached and it was only then that the bear retreated into the bush.

Castonguay said he got within 100 feet of the polar bear.

"It looked healthy and in good shape," he said.

He and other motorists that saw the polar bear spoke about the incident at the ferry crossing.

When he returned to Inuvik, he said the story had spread.

"They heard about it all around and in Inuvik," he said.

He said he was asked to show his picture to a lot of people.

Castonguay, a biologist, works for Biogenie, a company that does site inventory and soil samples among other things. He said he also teaches at a college in Quebec, specifically focusing on environmental issues and global warming.

He said that he was both excited and sad to see the polar bear south of Inuvik.

"At first I was very glad to see a polar bear," he said. "After thinking about it, it was a sad view of seeing a polar bear that far south."

Castonguay said he thinks it's a sign of global warming to see a polar bear so far south.

He said that he asked in Inuvik when was the last time that a polar bear had been that close to town.

"I heard that maybe 15 years ago there was one and they shot at it," he said.

As of Aug. 10, the polar bear was in Inuvik awaiting transportation out of the area.