For 15 years, Irish anthropologist Martina Tyrrell has studied the relationship between humans and animals in Arviat, an Inuit community on the west coast of Hudson Bay, where the townspeople are increasingly having to cope with a large and dangerous visitor – the polar bear.
It’s a Sunday afternoon in mid-October. I’m standing near the cemetery at the eastern end of Arviat, with a handful of other people.
All eyes are fixed on the newly formed sea ice where a polar bear bellyflops into the sea, hauls itself back on to the broken ice, and bellyflops again.
Inuit men and women, accustomed to close encounters with polar bears, seem to be no less in awe of this creature than I am.
There are gasps of delight at the bear’s antics, and informed discussion about its age, size and sex – and the reasons why it is behaving like this.
This is the seventh or eighth bear I have seen in as many days. Daily, I join townspeople on the dock near my house.
Binoculars are passed around as we watch a mother bear and two yearling cubs on the snowy slope on the far side of the town.
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