Polar bears 'coming in all directions' in Black Tickle

Jeffrey Keefe estimates there were about nine polar bears in the vicinity of Black Tickle on Monday, marking one of the earliest times yet that the large carnivores have been spotted in the coastal Labrador community.

Are residents in a state of panic?

Not at all, says Keefe.

"I love to see 'em," Keefe, a sergeant with the Canadian Rangers, told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"They're coming in all directions."

Black Tickle is an island community on the southeast coast of Labrador, with a population of less than 200 residents.

It is common for polar bears to visit, but they traditionally arrive in the spring as they make their way back north.

Their early arrival took Keefe by surprise after he stepped off a flight into the community earlier this week.

Bear spotted on trail

He was travelling by snowmobile from the airport to the community when he spotted a polar bear on the trail, about half-a-kilometre from the nearest dwellings.

Keefe was carrying a bear banger — a small hand-held device that can launch a small explosive, similar to a gunshot — in his pocket. He fired the device and directed the bear away from the community aboard his snowmobile.

"It's the same as herding cows," he joked.

Keefe made a humorous post on Facebook, quipping that the bear was waiting for him.

This is nothing new for Keefe.

In fact, he raced home to get his video camera, and went out on patrol for more bears.

"I gets real excited after being at it so long," he said

No frenzy in Black Tickle

Polar bears are a threat to humans, and have been known to attack. An adult male can weigh up to 700 kilograms. They are keen hunters on land and in the water, and have been known to swim for great distances.

Just a whisper of a bear's presence can send some communities into a frenzy, but not in Black Tickle.

There were about 12 bears on the island at one time a few years ago, said Keefe.

In the past, bear visits went mostly unnoticed by those outside of Black Tickle, but social media has changed all that.

The word is now out that Black Tickle is a popular destination for polar bears.

Last year, Keefe estimates that 28 bears came through the area.

"Everywhere else, people are paying a fortune for this stuff. But we're here every other day, just making sure they stays away from the community," Keefe said.