Polar bear patrol part of Halloween in Churchill
CHURCHILL, MAN. — Most trick-or-treaters are wellversed in Halloween safety: travel in groups, wear colourful clothing and only stop at brightly lit homes.
The drill is slightly different, however, for kids in a remote Manitoba town on Hudson Bay.
Youngsters in Churchill are warned not to dress in furry white costumes, to steer clear of baited traps stuffed with seal meat and to listen for the tell-tale sound of fireworks.
That’s because these candy-seekers have more to worry about than ghosts and goblins. They need to avoid a different kind of predator on Halloween — the polar bear.
In Churchill — known as the polar bear capital of the world — Halloween falls smack in the middle of the busiest time for the iconic mammals. The bears are restlessly wandering around as they wait for cooler temperatures so they can head out onto the frozen winter ice.
Add to that streets crawling with about 300 trick-ortreaters and their tasty bags of treats. The combination could be deadly.
But Conservation, Parks Canada and RCMP officers have ensured everyone’s safety for the last 40 Halloweens and this year is no different. Thirty of them will encircle the town and keep an eye on youngsters going door to door.
“ It’s a precautionary measure because the polar bear is a predatory animal,” said Const. Mike Boychuk. “Our main goal is to have a safe community whether it be from humans or from bears.”
School children get a visit from the polar bear patrol team to go over safety tips. On the day of Halloween, several conservation officers take to the sky in a helicopter to see if there are any bears nearby. As dusk descends, Mountie patrol cars and other emergency vehicles are parked around the town’s perimeter with their lights flashing.
Other units patrol the town of about 1,000 and also look out for bears, while about half a dozen bear traps baited with seal meat are set up.
If a bear is spotted, said conservation officer Andrew Szklaruk, he and his colleagues are called in to shoo it away.