The Labrador polar bear hunt is underway, and Hopedale resident Kevin Flowers claimed the first animal.
Flowers was approximately 15 miles outside of town on the sea ice when he shot the polar bear, which measured 10 feet 8 inches in length and 10 feet 3 inches wide. It's the biggest polar bear Flowers has killed during his life.
Every year the Nunatsiavut Government gets a dozen polar bear licenses, which it can distribute to its beneficiaries. Flowers was lucky enough to be first on the list for a license.
"I kept my ears open and asked around," says Flowers. "I heard that the licenses were in and I put my name on the list."
Flowers has hunted three polar bears before. He says you have to act quickly when you get a license, because it's only good for a week. If you don't get a polar bear after that first week, it'll go to someone else on the waiting list.
The first two days were windy and cold; not good hunting conditions out on the open ice. But Flowers got his bear on the third day. It took four shots with his 300 Winchester Magnum to put it down.
"When I knocked it down with the first shot, it started growling," recalls Flowers.
Polar bears are hunted primarily for their fur, which can get a good price at an auction. This is exactly what Flowers plans to do with his bear.
According to a representative from Fur Harvesters Auction Inc, an average polar bear fur can fetch a price of $5000-$6000. There are a lot of factors that can increase or decrease a fur's value significantly, such as; tint of the fur, condition of the claws, bald patches, stains, and length of the fur, among others. He said it's impossible to determine the value of a particular polar bear fur without examining it first. Despite the thousands of dollars a lot of furs receive at auction, some may be sold for as low as $400.
But it's not just the potential financial benefit of a polar bear hunt that interests Flowers. He enjoys the hard work and challenge involved in hunting a polar bear and preparing its fur.
"I always liked the polar bear hunt. It can be challenging or even dangerous at times. It's always going to be something different," says Flowers. "I've always loved working with fur. Polar Bear fur is not something you can finish in one day."
Flowers says he plans on making sure the meat doesn't go to waste either.
"There's a guy here in town who's got a dog team. I figured it would make good dog feed. It'll probably be good for his dog feed for two or three months."