RCAF search and rescue chopper damaged by hungry polar bear


Chalk it up to the perils of parking overnight on the tarmac of a northern airfield in Canada.

A CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopter was damaged earlier this month by what appears to have been a puzzled polar bear in search of a meal.

The aircraft belong to 413 Squadron, which is based in Greenwood, N.S. It spent the night at a remote air strip in Saglek, Newfoundland and Labrador on Sept. 16, according to the air force’s official Twitter account.

Poor weather over northern Labrador on that day had prevented the crew from reaching their preferred landing site, which was not identified.

A polar bear walks along an ice floe in the Franklin Strait in the Northwest Passage on July 23, 2007. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

In the darkness, the bear chose to conduct an inspection of the brightly painted helicopter, causing what the air forces said was “superficial damage” when it pushed on the side door.

The bear managed to pop out an emergency exit window and rip the cover off the nose cone.

“The polar bear did not get inside the helicopter and there were no crew members in the vicinity at the time,” said the air force’s Twitter post, which was accompanied by a series of photos that show the damaged side of the helicopter and the window with an oily paw smear.

A Canadian airforce search and rescue helicopter was damaged recently by a polar bear during a training exercise. The empty aircraft was parked on the tarmac at the Saglek airport in northern Labrador. (RCAF/Twitter)

Saglek is located in the Torngat Mountains and was originally built as a U.S. Air Force base in the 1950s at the beginning of the Cold War.

It was later handed over to the Canadian military and is now home to an automated long-range radar station that forms part of NORAD’s North Warning System.

The nearby Saglek Fjord — known by local fishermen as “The Devil’s Place” because of its ever-changing winds — was profiled last spring in National Geographic magazine as “the best place in the world to see polar bears.”

The Cormorant helicopter was participating in a northern search and rescue exercise.

The air force said the crew inspected the damage, conducted repairs and continued the two-week mountain training exercise.

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