'Like a scene from Jurassic Park': St. John's photographer captures polar bear being released into wild

·2 min read
Michael Winsor used a telephoto lens to shoot photos of the polar bear from a safe distance. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Michael Winsor used a telephoto lens to shoot photos of the polar bear from a safe distance. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)

A polar bear who made it all the way to Harbour Grace has had quite the ride this week, and photographer Michael Winsor got to see it first hand.

The bear was first discovered near Red Head Cove on the northeast Avalon, and made the more than 70 kilometre journey to Harbour Grace where it was met by wildlife officials.

Officials took the bear to St. Anthony, accompanied by Winsor, a professional photographer from St. John's who has shot for groups such as Canadian Geographic Magazine and CBC Television's Land & Sea.

Winsor said it was a frightening yet rewarding experience.

"It was really scary," he told CBC News Friday.

"I saw the polar bear in the cage there, [and] naturally for the polar bear its instinct is to pound down. It was shaking the whole cage. It was really like a scene from Jurassic Park. It was like the raptor trying to get out."

Winsor was able to keep his distance from the bear shooting the photos with a 700mm telephoto lens. He was able to stand about the length of a football field away from the bear, he said — and that was close enough.

Meg Roberts/CBC
Meg Roberts/CBC

"Even if he had to turn and come at me, I had lots of time to get in the truck and get away," he said. "The adrenaline was going, I had to try and stay focused on getting pictures that I wanted. But it was still in the back of my mind that the bear's at a safe distance."

Polar bear sightings have been more prevalent in Newfoundland in recent months, finding their way into the region on drifting sea ice. The bears are also showing up in more unconventional places — like some southern communities, and in one case on a woman's roof.

The bears can often find their way into communities or in wooded areas as they work to travel north.

Winsor said the experience showed how risky the job of a wildlife officer is, and commended them for their work.

"You always think of ourselves being on the top of the food chain. But a polar bear, if they come at you there's really nothing you can do," he said.

"They really put their life on the line to save the polar bear for sure, and the people and the residents."

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