Court: rampaging polar bear posed legitimate danger to Newfoundland family

The man decided to go after the bear because he was afraid for the safety of his family.
The man decided to go after the bear because he was afraid for the safety of his family. (Photo: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)

Is this a case of eat or be eaten?

In March 2012, a man took his wife and daughter to their cabin in Seal Cove, N.L. for a vacation. When they arrived at the cabin they discovered that the cabin had been trashed by a polar bear.

They decided to stay at the cabin after making repairs but unfortunately for them, the bear also decided to stay and trashed the cabin again while they were away hunting for birds.

The polar bear kept returning, and after trying to scare him off by firing “warning shots,” the man decided to go after the bear because he was afraid for the safety of his family. When the bear left, he followed on his snowmobile, tracked and then killed it with two shots.

The man reported the incident to wildlife officers and was promptly charged with killing a bear without a permit under the Wild Life Act of Newfoundland and Labrador. The penalty for violating the act is a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for up to six months.

When charged, he claimed self-defence. Though he was given a plea bargain, the trial judge refused to accept his guilty plea, because he found that the man took all reasonable precautions when deciding to kill the polar bear in order to protect his family. In the case of self-defence, a permit wasn’t needed when hunting down a wild animal.

Government lawyers were unhappy with the court’s decision and appealed, claiming in part that the judge made a mistake in the self-defence verdict. They claimed that the man didn’t have to kill the bear because it had already left the cabin.

The appeal court disagreed with the government lawyers and found that the polar bear had twice done a lot of damage to the cabin, kept returning and was likely to return again, which posed a danger to the man’s family. Though it was unfortunate the bear had to lose its life, the man acted in defence of his family and himself.

The court dismissed the appeal.

Find a Lawyer