Polar bear that chased and bit man will get new home in a Winnipeg zoo

WINNIPEG – A polar bear that made headlines earlier this month after it chased and bit a man in northern Manitoba will get a new home in a Winnipeg zoo.

Margaret Redmond, president of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, says the bear will be transported from Churchill to the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre within the next few weeks.

Redmond says the bruin will be the first polar bear from the wild to be housed at the facility, which was opened last year by the conservancy.

“It was determined that he was otherwise going to have to be euthanized because he was such a danger,” Redmond said Saturday.

The bear chased Garett Kolsun while he was walking home after a night of celebrating with friends in Churchill earlier this month.

It cornered him on a porch, swiped at him with his paw and sank its teeth into his hip until Kolsun said he managed to distract it with the light from his cellphone, which allowed him to flee to safety.

The Hudson Bay community is known as the polar bear capital of the world, and attracts tourists who are keen for a glimpse of one of the giant white-furred predators.

But the animals also pose a threat to residents, and when they are captured, they are kept in a holding facility that’s commonly referred to as the polar bear jail.

Redmond says that’s where the bear that bit Kolsun has been held since wildlife officials captured it, awaiting its fate.

She says Manitoba Conservation Minister Gord Macintosh contacted her directly to ask if the bear could live at the polar bear conservation centre.

“We said, ‘Of course.’ We’d do anything we could to prevent one of these magnificent animals from being destroyed,” Redmond said.

Planning for the polar bear centre began with the provincial government in 2009, Redmond said, and part of its mandate is to be a rescue centre for orphaned bears, or ones that would have to be euthanized or would die of starvation.

There is already a bear — Hudson, which came from Toronto — that was born in captivity living at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

Redmond says the bear doesn’t have a name, yet, and the zoo hasn’t come up with how they’ll give him one.

His new home will eventually be part of a new four-hectare exhibit, due to open next June, that profiles northern Canada’s animals and its fragile environment.

Redmond says she hasn’t personally spoken with Kolsun about he feels about the polar bear’s new home in Winnipeg, but she says provincial officials talked with him before the decision was made.

Kolsun suffered only a few superficial puncture wounds and scratches from the attack.

“He feels very good about this option and he sees that this is an opportunity for the animal, rather than having to be euthanized, to serve as an ambassador to his species in what will ultimately be a very large and comfortable area for the bear,” Redmond said.

Redmond says it will likely be a while before the public gets to see the bear. Contact with humans will likely be stressful, she explains, so it will have to be introduced gradually.

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