To kill a polar bear

“Once, the bears were our food. Now we’ve become the food.”
– Naujaat elder Donat Milortok

To kill a polar bear

The fate and ferocity of the North’s greatest predator has pitted the Inuit against southern scientists, leading to an extraordinary moment in a Nunavut court

Excerpts from a fascinating article by Aaron Hutchins

Published: April 15, 2019

It was about one hour before sunset on Sept. 8 when one local looked out toward the waters of Repulse Bay, at the northwestern edge of Hudson Bay. Almost immediately, anyone within earshot of a CB radio—most hunters keep theirs on all the time—heard the one word spoken aloud far too often as of late: Nanuk. Polar bear.

The animal was just a couple of hundred metres from town when another voice came over the airwaves, that of respected elder and once-active hunter Charlie Tinashlu: “Kill that polar bear before it gets too close,” he broadcast. “Kill it before it kills one of us—again.”

It had been only 10 days since Naujaat buried one of its own, Darryl Kaunak, a father in his early 30s who was mauled by a polar bear while out on a hunting trip. It had been two months since the people of Arviat, down the western shore of Hudson Bay, had to do the same for 31-year-old Aaron Gibbons.

There are several ways to try to chase off polar bears, rifle shots in the air and devices known as “bear bangers” among them. But over the years, residents say, these scare tactics have become less effective; the bears often return within a couple of hours, or a few days.

So the people of Naujaat were scared and angry. There was no guarantee that when this bear returned it wouldn’t come at night—a prospect all the more dangerous in a town of about 1,100 people, where 40 per cent are under the age of 15 and it’s not unusual to see kids playing street hockey at 2 a.m. There is one wildlife conservation officer in Naujaat, Peterloosie Papatsie, whose job is to protect the town but also safeguard the bears by enforcing the Wildlife Act, which ideally means scaring bears away and not killing them. It doesn’t make him the most popular figure in the community.

Now, whether Papatsie approved or not, the town’s hunters were headed for the shoreline of Repulse Bay with an elder’s authorization to kill. It was approaching 7 p.m. when a gunshot went off. The bear collapsed, shot dead. The town was safe—for now. But the heart of the problem was still very much unresolved.


“(Polar bears are) increasing in numbers,” says Laimmiki Malliki, a hunter and culture teacher at Naujaat’s Tuugaalik High School, but the biologists, he adds ruefully, aren’t around to see them: “Scientists live down south. They come here a week or two and are back down again. They don’t know anything about the North.”

This sentiment is not exclusive to those living above the Arctic Circle. The Inuit along western Hudson Bay say the polar bear population is increasing there, too. In Arviat—the southernmost mainland community of Nunavut, located north of the self-described Polar Bear Capital of the World in Churchill, Man.—it’s gotten to the point where bears walk right through town or up to campsites without fear. “It’s scary,” says local hunter Brian Aglukark. “It’s no longer a safe environment.”


It is the Inuit who are most vulnerable. “The local Inuit have been saying for years and years that the polar bear population is too big,” says Paul Irngaut, director of wildlife and environment for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., an organization that speaks for the territory’s Inuit. “We can’t deal with them, especially the ones close to communities that put human life in danger.”

Chesterfield Inlet, a Nunavut community on western Hudson Bay, has hired two people to carry rifles and watch over kids’ outdoor camps during the summer. “It’s getting worse every year,” says Mayor Simionie Sammurtok. “People don’t go for a walk anymore because there are too many polar bears. You have to carry a rifle all the time.”

“Some scientists identify that they believe polar bears are declining because of the impacts of climate change,” says Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife management for Nunavut’s Department of Environment. “Fortunately for polar bears, and unfortunately for some scientists, we have not observed those steep declines.”

The Inuit say they aren’t oblivious to changes in sea ice; many can see it from their kitchen windows each year. And they’re not denying climate change, says Irngaut: “It’s happening. But we’re saying the impact on polar bears is not that great.” If anything, he argues, the bears have revealed their adaptability. They can swim to catch their prey; they can eat berries and hunt caribou, among other species that come their way. They remain the Kings of the North.


In late August, Darryl Kaunak went on a caribou hunting trip in nearby Lyon Inlet with two other hunters, Leo Ijjangiaq and Laurent Junior Uttak, but they were marooned when their boat motor broke down. Kaunak was asleep on the second morning after their departure when, as the others made tea, a female polar bear and her cub snuck up on their tent. Kaunak woke to the sound of screaming. As Ijjangiaq tried desperately to steady his rifle, Kaunak ran, only for the mother bear to turn her attention on him. Ijjangiaq got one shot off at the bear before his gun jammed. One shot wasn’t enough; Kaunak was being mauled.

Ijjangiaq rushed to grab another rifle and pulled the trigger several times more until both mother bear and cub were dead—too late to save his friend. Kaunak’s body now lies next to his father’s in a cemetery that overlooks Naujaat.

“If I kill a polar bear, and there’s no tags, I get punished. If the polar bear kills me, who’s going to punish them?” asks Laimmiki Malliki, Naujaat’s high school culture teacher. “The owner has to be punished. Because it’s murder.” By “owner,” he says, he means the territorial government. “If you own something, you can tell somebody what to do or not to do. That’s what the government is saying: ‘Don’t kill my polar bear.’ ”

The government seems to be more interested in protecting the bears—and not mindful of the people who are in need of protection, says Naujaat elder Donat Milortok, speaking in Inuktitut through a translator. The people of Nunavut often will avoid killing a bear because they’re afraid of the law, Milortok adds, concluding: “Once, the bears were our food. Now we’ve become the food.”

See entire article and learn the outcome of the trial.
Includes several photos, including one of Darryl Kaunak’s grave.

20 thoughts on “To kill a polar bear”

  1. Very interesting. Sad to read of the deaths of those men. Glad to read of the outcome of the court hearing.
    It would be good to know about Susan Crockford’s take on the matter.

  2. Granted it was many years ago, but I have been to Hall Beach a few hundred KM north of here and spent about 1 year in the Canadian artic, never saw a polar bear but spoke to many who had. Vicious creatures, dont mess with them, heard of the destroying strobe lights on the landing field.
    IF they were really endangered would natives be allowed to hunt them? They do, if there was a problem with ice would they be able to swim as much as 200KM (120 miles), they are doing just fine….BUT they look cute in pictures and the Global Warming narrative needs them to be endangered…

  3. Very dangerous and powerful creatures, stay away from them……

    They can swim upto 120 miles and disable an airplane with one swipe of the arm/paw…

  4. Bloody hell imagine living there in constant fear of getting mauled by the most fearsome man eater on the planet.
    Another reason not to live in the arctic…the weather sucks and so does being eaten alive.

  5. Environmental bureaucrats = the enemy of the people.

    Environmentalists unilaterally decreed that wild fires in Australia are caused by “climate change”. I suspect the large number of wild fires are due to orchestrated arson. Who stand to benefit? It seems from TV news that the Australian P.M. is standing firm against demands from the environmentalists to take steps against “climate change” to reduce wild fires.
    Meanwhile Germany budgeted $60 million to combat “climate change”. Good news for the “renewable energy” industry.

  6. these people need to speak up when the idiot warmists with no clue at all come to visit
    and get msm media up there when people are mauled or killed to bring home the truth
    paintball the roaming town bears give em 3 chances
    maybe something stinky or offensive that bears hate, in the pellets? then the next visit is live ammo

  7. “The people of Nunavut often will avoid killing a bear because they’re afraid of the law, Milortok adds, concluding: “Once, the bears were our food. Now we’ve become the food.””

    One of the benefits of Canada’s gun control laws. It makes it too much trouble to have the means of defending life and property against all predators foreign and domestic. I’m sure the bears, criminals and governments are eternally grateful… Let’s face it Canadians are easy to catch and there are plenty of us.

    • Silly comment. The Inuit have lots of guns. They simply fear the legal ramifications of killing a Coca-Cola bear.

      • Not silly at all! Canada’s gun laws exist for the purpose of quashing self defense in all its forms.

        The people running the show deem the act of self defense and the means to do so to be a threat to them and their supporters.

  8. U.S. and British Navies set up Polar Bear sharp shooters when venturing in the northern Polar Bear regions. Best to be safe than sorry!

    Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. Shalom to all.

  9. Justin Trudeau could do something useful for a change, please go and feed the bears Justin.
    Maybe take some of your liberal friends with you.

  10. A reoccurring low pressure area over Hudson Bay was what brought polar air south into USA this Autumn. Alberta Clipper on roids.
    Two other lows prevailed. One above Bearing strait and N Atlantic, S of Iceland.
    Draw a circle, the waves, arrows, there’s the pattern.
    What started all that was Raikoke Volcano and what kicked that off was the coronal hole/solar wind storm. All retrievable data.
    The West Pac typhoons this fall fed into the low above Bearing Strait undulating the jet. Warm right side, Ak, cold left side Russia.
    The system has recovered and were back to zonal flow. The lows are back down S into normal range.
    The solar wind has lessened and we don’t have as much volatility.
    Bet ya five bucks.

  11. In order to drive to Alaska, one has to travel the Al-Can highway, which passes through Canada. Americans must leave their firearms behind at the border, because it is illegal to carry them in Canada, even tho all manner of large animals roam the Al-Can highway.

    Once in Alaska, it is advisable to purchase firearms, because of polar bears in the north and grizzly and black bears in the south.

    People who live there go armed at all times and take their dogs to work with them because they cannot leave them safely tied outside. Wolf packs can also be a danger.

    Alaska is a different world, and should have different rules, but our federal govt is no longer ours. I don’t know who owns it, but clearly they do not care about the welfare of the people. That becomes more and more obvious with each passing day.

  12. Grand dad got a polar bear in 1919 with a Winchester model 1895 in 30-06.
    He stood 5’7″ tall at the time. His rifle, a carbine model was about 3′ long.
    I have a picture of him standing next to the propped up bear holding his rifle erect at arms length above his head. The muzzle is still short of the bears head.
    That would make the bear about 11′ (3+ meters) tall. Probably weighed 1500+ pounds.

    Thing was a monster.

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