A family in the northern Nunavik community of Quaqtaq, Que., woke up to a polar bear trying to break into their home this week.
On Wednesday at around 4:30 a.m., Jeannie Angnatuk was startled awake by the sound of her dogs barking.
When she looked out her window, she froze.
“I could see his face, it was so huge, and I tried to run but I couldn’t.”
The ten-foot bear was on the back step, checking out an animal pelt her husband caught a few weeks ago.
It took her a few minutes to wake up her sleeping husband, Adamie Kauki. She yelled, “Atii, there’s a polar bear!” (Atii means “go” in Inuktut.)
Their five children were still sleeping when the couple rushed upstairs to a balcony to spot the bear from a safe distance.
“We couldn’t open the back door because it was so close,” Angnatuk said.
Kauki fired at the bear from up there. It was blizzard conditions, the kind of weather bears like.
He learned growing up that polar bears will play dead. They wait until the hunter is close, and attack. When Kauki went outside to make sure the bear was dead, he found it was still breathing, and had to fire again.
The nanuq, meaning polar bear in Inuktut, was bigger than an average bear. The bears mostly wander into coastal communities in the North, and are very dangerous.
“During springtime and summer is when the bears come around more often,” Angnatuk said. “If it had been during the day the kids would have been playing out, so I am so relieved they are ok.”
‘Make sure your kids are not out alone’
The family shared the meat with neighbours in the community of around 400 people. The meat that can’t be used by people is being used for dog food.
Kauki says he would like a new pair of qarlikajaaq — hunting pants sewn from fur — made from the hide. As a hunter, he spends a lot of time outdoors in the winter.
Although Angnatuk grew up in Nunavik, she had never been in a situation like this before.
“My [older] son shot his first bear when he was four years old at our family camp, but that was my first time being a few feet away from a live polar bear,” she said.
Her head was racing, she said. It was hard to believe the bear was even real.
“Since the whole incident my four-year-old son won’t leave his dad’s side. He is very aware now, as we all should be,” she said. “Always check the window if you go out. Make sure your kids are not out alone.”