Cabin life is always interesting in Churchill. Most times when you step out the door, it is accompanied by a quick check around for big, white rocks with sharp teeth. Bears have an uncanny ability to appear when you least expect them.
Most people who venture outside of Polar Bear Alert’s regular patrol zone carry a shotgun for defence. These are usually loaded first with cracker shells – non-lethal shells loaded with black powder – and then with steel slugs as a second resort. Often, the loud bang associated with cracker shells is enough to move a bear away. If not, a cracker shell in their toe works pretty well.
However, polar bears learn very quickly and a ‘crackered’ bear will likely return later in the evening or at dawn to resume his investigations. The best defence for people and cabins is a big dog with a real dislike for bears. It is actually a lot of fun to helping a good bear dog ‘work’ a bear.
They dart in and out and circle around, barking and trying to bite that big ol’ bear bum. Almost always, excessive barking accompanied by cracker shells or honking are a good combination to get the ‘move along’ message across to unwelcome visitors.
Nail boards, also called a ‘Churchill welcome mat’, are a good start for cabin owners. These are made with 3/4” plywood and a whole bunch of nails. For the most part, they are a good deterrent placed under or even attached to doors and windows. On the other hand, I have seen bears standing on nail boards and getting quite grumpy!
Other bear defences include a cage around the front door. This gives you chance to step out and check for bears in relative safety.
However, not much is going to stop a bear if it really sets its mind to something. The best description I have heard about a bearstruck cabin is that it is ‘like someone picked up the cabin, turned it over, shook it and then put it back.’ Bears have peeled off nailboards, chewed through walls, popped out windows (frames and all) and even broken through roofs. Once inside, they may tear apart one room and walk through another leaving it untouched!
Luckily, most bears prefer to work in private and do this when people are not in their cabins. Of course, the odd bear that doesn’t care whether you are home or not can often leave you running for your gun and then to the door in your long underwear…or less!