Polar bear drifts past Twillingate

Community reminded of past encounter in March 2000

Published on March 10, 2017

Ferg Penton, Captain of the ferry MV veteran, snapped this image of a Polar Bear stranded on an ice pan about one mile off Twillingate’s shores March 9.

©Contributed Image

Ferg Penton, ferry captain of the MV Veteran, created a stir on social media March 9 when he posted pictures of a polar bear, drifting on an ice pan, about a mile off the shores of Twillingate.

It’s not often the residents of the island community get to see a live polar bear. In fact, when Irene Bridger last saw a polar bear near Twillingate there was no social media to spread stories of the their unusual visitor. The appearance would have to be recorded in a much more traditional Newfoundland fashion, in song.

“March month, I think it would be a common time to see them, you’ve got the rough ice coming through and you’ve got your seals,” said Bridger. “So no I wasn’t surprised when you hear there is one out there, but yet you are surprised, because how often does it happen.”  

“Twillingate’s Polar Bear”, also the name of the song composed by Bridger, made its appearance in March 2000. To the best of Bridger’s knowledge, it was a first for the outport community.

“I don’t know if there was ever a polar bear that came to Twillingate before, so it’s not exactly something you’re prepared for,” said Bridger. “Especially in a small town, that kind of stuff everybody wants to see.” 

Bridger explained how residents lined their cars along the shore with headlights blazing. The bear floated towards Twillingate at night, and the possibility of it coming ashore without anyone knowing was a concern.

“It’s a scary situation where you don’t want it to come to land,” said Bridger. “We’ve got a lot of kids around.”  

The polar bear did eventually make land, and with no tranquilizers readily available, residents were forced to shoot the animal for safety reasons. The bear now has a permanent home in the Durrell Museum. 

Bridger, also an international gospel singer, was in the process of writing and recording her first album when Twillingate’s polar bear came ashore. With her creativity already focused, the tale evolved naturally. 

“I wrote that song, and several other Newfoundland songs, so when tourists came you could share a story about our community,” said Bridger. “Living on the water, my binoculars were always there by the window. So every now and then you see something.”

The song spanned some notoriety for Bridger and lead to many local performance requests, as well as several years hosting kitchen parties locally for tourists, sharing tales of Twillingate past and present. Bridger no longer performs regularly. The steady toll of working full time in addition to performing and hosting kitchen parties began to add up. 

“I kind of got burnt out after awhile,” said Bridger. “I work in health care and it’s really difficult to get time off, so I would have to work and do these kitchen parties, sometimes leave that 10 at night, go home for a quick nap then go to work.”

Bridger says she intends to return to her music later in life, perhaps in her retirement. 

“I might start touring again once I finish work,” said Bridger. “I still write down parts of songs, one of these days I will sit down with this and start putting it together. But I am always in my head and in my heart, writing songs.” 

Bridger says despite a few requests, there will be no sequel this time around, but Bridger’s original song, “Twillingate’s Polar Bear” can heard here: https://youtu.be/cm91i6bCK9I



Twillingate’s Polar Bear now resides in the community’s Durrell Museum. After the bear made land in March 2000, safety concerns forced members of the community to put the bear down.