Do polar bears make friends with dogs?

No. The polar bears and chained dogs famously seen interacting and playing at Mile 5 near Churchill are not ‘friends’.

Read this handy article. It’s light on detail but gets the essential facts right.

About Costa Botes

I'm a freelance film maker based in Wellington, New Zealand. I make mainly long form independent documentaries about characters I find interesting.
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2 Responses to Do polar bears make friends with dogs?

  1. write2dream says:

    Thanks for this for background I can use when I speak about Brian and the dogs in connection with the story in my book. Wonder how he is getting along with his ongoing battles? Barb

  2. Costa Botes says:

    I haven’t been in close touch, but I have followed events at a distance.

    The last couple of years have been difficult as Natural Resources (Manitoba Wildlife) have mounted incursions into Mile 5 – the area where Brian keeps his dogs – and forcibly removed resident bears.
    This means darting them, dragging them off with a helicopter, and putting them in polar bear jail, where they are kept in a deprived state until they are darted again and released far away on pack ice during early winter.

    This strategy makes some sense, but has to be seen within the context of somewhat contradictory actions. For instance – bears being removed from Mile 5, well away from human habitation, while bears on the outskirts of town were ignored.

    I’m not on the spot, so I can’t claim any coherent point of view on all this.

    Obviously, Brian’s operation involves a kind of ‘detente’ with nature. The bears and dogs make an accommodation with each other, which Brian has been able to exploit to his own advantage (the dogs also benefit directly, as fees and donations paid by visitors to the site contribute greatly to the annual dog food bill – which is enormous, and Brian has no other significant source of revenue).

    In the long run, the principle of bears and humans being kept as far separated as possible is probably a good thing. But …

    The downside of Natural resources taking bears away is that they mess with the tenuous balance described above. The established heirarchy of bears is basically dog friendly, or dog neutral at least. Taking them out opens the area up to old, young, or sick bears that might be tempted to predate dogs as an easy meal. This is what happened in the 1990s, the last time large adult bears were removed from Mile 5. Brian lost many dogs. He shot the bear concerned. It was old and sick. It had been kept out by the resident bears.

    At the end of the day, with the level of tourist activity happening nearby on the Churchill coast focused on bears, it is a mockery of truth for Natural Resources to interfere with the habitual movements of bears long established at Mile 5. It smacks of taking the path of least resistence in order to apply a rigid doctrinaire approach which might be fine in principle, but which hardly stacks up to the real world conditions. Any serious strategy to separate bears and humans would involve abandoning the town of Churchill and banning ALL close contact bear watching (fat chance).



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