Polar bears ruin Halloween for Nunavut children

The mayor of Churchill reported that trick or treaters do not dress up as seals or polar bears.

This year, Halloween night is going to look a little different for children in the Nunavut village of Arviat.

The Hamlet of Arviat has issued a public notice advising against trick or treating, as there have been more than the average number of polar bears spotted in and around the village in recent years.

As an alternative to the night’s door-to-door festivities, there will be an indoor event for children held at the community hall with activities such as face painting and a haunted house. They also hope to provide a shuttle bus to and from the event as a further safety precaution.

The public notice read, “It was clear that the majority of people liked the idea of providing a safer environment for kids to celebrate Halloween.”

The village is located about 250 kilometres north of Churchill, Manitoba — another city that deals with the dangers of bear activity in late fall, when the bears are waiting to start the seal hunting season once Hudson Bay is frozen over.

“Picture 1,200 kids going door-to-door in Arviat in the middle of polar bear season,” said Steve England, Arviat’s senior administrative officer.

“It’s a pretty obvious conclusion of what tragedies could come out of that. We’re just trying to safeguard the younger population by offering an alternative.”

Some have attributed the rise in bear activity near Arviat this year to the reduction of the polar bear harvest number — this winter, Cree and Inuit hunters are limited to 45 instead of 60 bears in Nunavut, Ontario, and Quebec.

In the past, Churchill has managed to keep trick or treaters safe with a helicopter warning to scare the polar bears off, as well as with consistent bear patrols, equipped with noisemakers, cracker shells, and rubber bullets.

These safety measures were even reflected in the costume choices in Churchill; mayor Mike Spence explained: “Nobody dresses up as seals. Nobody dresses up as polar bears here.”

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