Monday, August 15, 2022

When Nanuk met nanuq: Dog and polar bear come nose to nose in Black Tickle

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A Labrador family is breathing a sigh of relief after their pet dog walked away without a scratch after a close encounter with a polar bear.

Victoria Keefe was at her grandparents’ home in Black Tickle — a tiny community on an island off the Labrador coast, about 700 kilometres northwest of St. John’s — for dinner Sunday when her grandmother spotted something unusual outside through a window.

“She has a bit of a problem with her sight. And so she looked out and she thought to herself, ‘Oh, what a really pretty white dog,'” Keefe said. “She looked again proper, and as she looked out, she seen that there was this polar bear, which was nose to nose with her husky dog.”

Keefe said the family panicked. Their dog, Nanuk — which, coincidentally, means “polar bear” in Inuktitut — had never seen a polar bear before. Fortunately, the bear appeared to be young — and bewildered by the dog.

Keefe said her grandmother was worried Nanuk would react poorly and the bear would lash out.

“But [he] kind of just stayed calm and the bear was smelling him over,” Keefe said. “[The bear] didn’t really know what to do with Nanuk, just as much as Nanuk didn’t know what to do with him.”

Keefe started recording the encounter, capturing the bear and its movements. Her grandfather opened the window and began yelling at it, hoping to shoo it away from the dog. 

“Because this bear, the young bear, he didn’t really, I guess, interact with people much so he comes over to the window and gets on his hind legs and starts smelling at the window,” Keefe said. 

Her grandparents’ housemate fired a bear banger — a loud explosive launched from a handheld tube, used to ward off bears — at the polar bear, which ran off but is still presumed to be in the area, said Keefe. 

As for Nanuk, he came into the house quickly after the encounter. 

“He got a special lunch because of his near-death experience, and he was on his way,” she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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