A giant polar bear was captured on film petting a dog on the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Canada over the weekend. The bear gently pats the dog on the head and was filmed by a resident in the town of Churchill.
It’s a fascinating encounter, and the video has since gone viral, but there is more to this unusual encounter than meets the eye.
The article below was first published by DogHeirs.com in January 2012 and further details the history of eskimo dogs and polar bears of Churchill.
In 1992 a wildlife photographer Norbert Rosing, who did work for National Geographic and other magazines, was visiting Churchill, Manitoba in Canada and went to see a sled dog kennel owned by breeder Brian Ladoon.
While visiting, a large male polar bear appeared out of nowhere and approached one of the dogs. The dog stayed put and wagged its tail, and the bear and dog began gently touching each others noses and began to play. The two men were shocked. Rosing took out his camera and captured the encounter.
A second polar bear then also appeared and also joined in the play with the dog. For the next week the bears came back and played with the dogs. Then they vanished. Rosing thought that the encounter demonstrated very unusual behavior, given that dogs and bears are natural enemies. It was a one in a million encounter to witness.
Flash forward to present day and it appears that Brian Ladoon has capitalized on the encounter for many years. According to some tourists and scientists, Ladoon owns a large piece of property that he keeps fenced in. He charges people a fee to take them on his property to see polar bears, where he also has his Canadian Eskimo dogs.
He allegedly leaves excessive food out for the dogs, which in turn attracts the hungry polar bears. That’s where the footage of the video comes from, captured by a film crew visiting his property.
Recently, Ladoon and his dogs were the subject of a documentary film called “The Last Dogs of Winter”. The documentary reveals that Ladoon is on a mission to preserve and breed the rarest registered breed in the world, the Canadian Eskimo Dogs (aka ‘Inuit Dogs’ or ‘Qimmiq’). According to the film’s director, “His efforts have inspired both admiration and fierce criticism, largely because Ladoon’s dogs share their pitiless natural environment with itinerant wild polar bears, and his practices are seen by some to be inhumane.”
The director also points out, “The interface between people, animals, and nature is always a tricky balance in Churchill. Ladoon’s choice of location for his dog colony has created great problems for him, and an opportunity that has excited both envy and disapproval. The dogs share a barren point of land overlooking Hudson Bay that happens to be very popular with migrating polar bears. This has made Ladoon a target for complaints from locals and tourism operators who believe he has unfair access to a valuable tourism site; from wildlife purists who decry the habituation of polar bears to humans; and animal rights proponents, who claim he is exploiting both dogs and bears, and endangering both for profit.”
Ladoon is certainly a polarizing controversial figure to say the least. It is truly fascinating to realize that the chance encounter between a polar bear and dog over 20 years ago has strongly affected the destiny of the dogs, people and polar bears living in this remote region of Hudson Bay.
Below is an interview/trailer about “The Last Dogs of Winter”.