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Sachs firm one in a million

John Curran
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

SACHS HARBOUR - Entrepreneur Roger Kuptana didn't win the lottery, it's more like he helped pick the numbers for the person who won.

The Sachs Harbour businessman guided a U.S. hunter to the historic - though accidental - kill of the polar-grizzly bear hybrid on April 16, 2006, on Banks Island.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Roger Kuptana, guide for the polar-grizzly bear hybrid kill near Sachs Harbour in 2006, has released a clothing line to promote his business and community. He models a shirt while showing photos of the animal that has come to be known as polar grizz. - John Curran/NNSL photo

That fateful trip sparked a media and scientific frenzy with Kuptana and the community at the centre of it all.

"We were getting phone calls from all over the world," he said. "People called from as far away as India and Australia."

More than a year later, he and his wife and business partner Jackie are using the bear to re-brand and expand their operation.

Their business is now called Kuptana's Polar Grizz Enterprises and includes eco-tours, polar bear and muskox sport hunts, a bed and breakfast, vehicle rentals as well as a recently-released clothing line featuring the hybrid bear and the slogan "One in a million."

"A lot of the sport hunters were asking about buying something related to polar grizz," said Jackie. "We had the clothing arrive in mid-June and so far the response has been tremendous - we're always willing to do phone orders, too."

Great advertising

Kuptana sees polar grizz as a chance to make his business and community standout from the other premier hunting adventure opportunities available worldwide.

"It's a way of promoting the sport hunting we do," he said. "So far the community has been really supportive."

In the 1950s, Sachs Harbour was all about white foxes. Hunters and trappers relocated here in search of the lucrative pelts.

Former mayor and trapper Andy Carpenter remembers each Arctic fox earning a hunter about $20 apiece at the time.

"This used to be the white fox capital of the world," he said.

Elders Frank and Martha Kudlak were among those who made the move at the time.

"Frank wanted to make the move because there were so many foxes here that he could trap and sell to the Hudson's Bay Company," said Martha Kudlak. "We came from Victoria Island ... there you could only get about $3 for each fox."

It wasn't long, however, until the bottom fell out of the fur market and Sachs' primary industry crumbled due to low prices that have lagged ever since.

At an auction held in May, the average price paid for Arctic fox pelts was just $28.26.

"I hope polar grizz can put Sachs Harbour back on the map so that everyone here can benefit," said Kuptana.