Ken Taptuna held a grizzly bear’s trachea to his pursed lips and then blew into it, expanding the deceased animal’s five lung sacs.
All around him, fascinated students at Kugluktuk High School watched and felt the lungs swell and contract.
“The first time I’d done it, they gasped. They were in shock and awe as to how much like a balloon (the lungs) were,” said Taptuna, school/community counsellor for the past 10 years.
Taptuna noted that he took a deep breath before blowing, and yet the amount of air he was able to transfer in a single breath wasn’t near enough to fill the huge predator’s lungs to capacity.
“It was a lot less than what a bear would be able to aspirate at,” he said.
This educational activity was made possible when a two-year-old male grizzly was shot and killed after repeatedly wandering into Kugluktuk in late September. The bear was donated to the school and dissected, allowing students to see its anatomy up close.
Taptuna did a lot of hunting and skinning while growing up, so handling an animal’s organs is “kind of second nature to me,” he said. It was, however, the first time many students – in grades 6 to 12 – had a chance to view and feel such things.
The school welcomes such opportunities, Taptuna said, although dissections of caribou and seals are much more common than bears, he added.