They make an odd couple, but a big-bodied polar bear and diminutive dog threw caution to the tundra winds and cuddled up in northern Manitoba over the weekend.
“I had no idea what was going to happen, and then sure enough he started petting that dog, acted like he was a friend,” David De Meulles said. “I just so happen to catch a video of a lifetime.”
De Meulles recorded a video over the weekend that shows one of the Arctic predators towering over a dog, tenderly petting it while the two nuzzle in Churchill, Man.
De Meulles was born and raised in Churchill and said he’s never seen anything like it.
He works as a heavy-duty mechanic in the northern community and occasionally picks up shifts as a tour guide for his friend who owns and operates North Star Tours.
‘These are like lions, these dogs. They’re primitive and fearless.’
– Brian Ladoon
De Meulles drove two clients out to Brian Ladoon’s property Saturday in hopes of seeing some polar bears known to spend time in the area. They got what they were looking for and more.
There were a tense few moments as a polar bear appeared and walked over to one of several dogs chained up.
The creature lumbered right up, raised its massive clawed forepaw and began patting the dog on its head.
“I’ve known the bears to have somewhat friendly behaviour with the dogs, but for a bear to pet like a human would pet a dog is just mind-blowing,” De Meulles said.
“It was a beautiful sight to see, and I just can’t believe an animal that big would show that kind of heart toward another animal.”
What De Meulles and the tourists witnessed was a first for them, but it isn’t entirely out of the ordinary for Ladoon.
“How they do it, it’s not my will, it’s nature’s will,” Ladoon said.
The lifetime northerner has been raising a rare breed of Canadian sled dog for more than 40 years on his land, which he said the government gave him in 1969-70 to help rescue the rare breed.
Little is known about the domestication history of the dogs, Ladoon said, but like their impressive white friends, they have a wild side.
“These are like lions, these dogs. They’re primitive and fearless,” Ladoon said.
While he’s no longer shocked to see polar bears interact with his dogs, he didn’t expect the two species to strike up such a familiar relationship early on.
“It is all of course probably a random chance happening that evolved at an accelerated rate because of the number of bears that were there, and the age group was perfect,” he said.
Ladoon runs a casual operation; people reach out and he takes them to see the roadside spectacle for a fee.
Over the years he’s had “plenty” of scares between the dogs and polar bears.
“You’re going to get surprises,” Ladoon said, adding he’s lost dogs to wild Arctic predators in the past. “I have [had] entanglements or to predation, yes … mostly wolves.”
Generally speaking the dogs keep “nasty” bears in their place, but for the most part they all get along strangely well, Ladoon said.
The dogs seem to enjoy life outside in the brisk Arctic environment, he added.
“It’s like a little Garden of Eden,” Ladoon said. “It’s a safe place. They feel like they’re happy there, they survive.… They love it and so, hey, why should I not help them?”