Po­lar bear pa­trol part of Hal­loween in Churchill

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Features - BY CHINTA PUXLEY

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.

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