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Peter Sinclair - page 7----

Tales from the Territories: The Wrigley Bears
by Peter Sinclair

The Wrigley Bears. As Wrigley station had been abandoned for over two years, the local wildlife was accustomed to wandering through the old camp. Even after we reoccupied the camp in 1948, the black bears continued to prowl through the area.

The cabin that was used as unheated storage was one of the renovated buildings. Most of the stores in there had been left behind by the US Army when they pulled out. The storehouse contained sacks of flour, brown sugar, 30 lb cases of icing sugar that had become solid blocks, and many cases of 10 lb. cans of Rogers Majestic Golden Corn Syrup - two cans to a double-wrapped case. All this had to be moved out while a floor and new roof were built. While the roof was off a walk-in reefer (deep-freeze unit) was put in. All this flour, syrup, etc, was at least three years old but in the north, when in doubt, save! The double heavy cardboard wrapped syrup we left in a stack outside the cabin while construction went on. One morning we found several cases had been torn open and the cans squeezed to pop the lids. There was sticky syrup everywhere. Round one to the bears.

Our cook, Scotty McQueen, baked bread at night when it was cooler. Alongside the range, high up, was a small window for ventilation. McQueen was bent down at the oven when some dirt fell in from the open window. Thinking it was Hal Zinn teasing him, without looking up he swung his left arm in a backhand swipe and connected with something furry - followed by a growl. Scotty let out a scream which brought Hal in from next door to find a badly shaken and almost incoherent cook. The smell of fresh baked bread must have attracted the bear.

There was a 55 gal. drum of Hymelt grease just inside the log garage. This drum had a large lid held down by screws. Hal Zinn had been filling grease guns and intended to refill them the next day so he left the lid off. The next day there were claw marks across the grease where a paw full had been scooped out. If that bear ate the grease he would have been one well lubricated bear.

The summer of 1949 saw a lot of construction. Cpl. Andy Preece of NWT&Y Engineers was the construction foreman for a new station building, married quarters, engine room, three warehouses and an ice house. At the same time, WO II Howie Crowell and Signalman Ken Stewart came in to build the 100 ft LF antenna masts. In preparation for the construction we had dozed out an 800 ft. circle for the 600 ft LF antenna site. Shortly after their arrival Crowell, Stewart and Preece went down to the cleared area to do an initial survey for the mast bases and anchors. There was a crashing sound back in the trees. Ken Stewart picked up a chunk of gravel and threw it toward the sounds. The sounds stopped and a bear walked out to the edge of the clearing, looked toward them and growled. The sounds had been the bear smashing stumps to find grubs. Andy Preece, who must have been about 50 years old at the time, was off at a dead run and didn't stop until he was back at the station. When the other two got back, Andy was still white. They never got him back to the mast site again.

The Bear Hunters
. Jack Unger and Ray Bebeau had come in from Calder to replace the clutch on the 3-ton stake truck. It was well known that Wrigley probably had more than its fiar share of black bears. We were always finding their tracks through the camp. If we were really tired of canned meat we would shoot one for a change, but it was not our favourite food. Jack and Ray really wanted to get a bear while there so we told them how to go about it. Most of us had our own weapons (mine was a 300 Savage) but if we used the station issue .303 rifles we bought .303 British ammo from the HBC rather than use the standard army-issue steel jacket cartridges. The .303 British was a far superior cartridge for hunting purposes.


Jack and Ray went down to the dump where the bears congregated and waited. We had advised them to use the .303 British ammo, and also to shoot a small bear because they were better eating. Not so - instead they used the issued steel jacket ammo and shot the biggest bear they could see. Of course the steel jacket bullet went straight through and only crippled the bear - which promptly charged them. The bear was hot on their heels, with the lads pumping bullets into it on the run. It chased them half way back to camp before it dropped. I was on the midnight shift and had just sent the 1:00 a.m. synoptic when the shooting started. That bear was just riddled through with bullet holes.


Skinning the bear

The Bear Hunters


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