A Canadian man died protecting his children from a polar bear that attacked the family on the shore of a small island on the western edge of Hudson Bay.
Aaron Gibbons and his children were on Century Island, a strip of land six miles from the mainland hamlet of Arviat, where locals go to fish and hunt.
“He was enjoying a day with his children,” Mr Gibbons’s uncle, Gordon Kidlapid, said. The children are believed to be of primary school age. “They were surprised by a bear that had started to stalk or charge toward one of his children.”
Polar bears are regularly seen on the island and Mr Gibbons, 31, was thought to have taken a rifle with him on Wednesday. However, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said he did not have the gun to hand when the bear attacked, and he faced it unarmed.
“He told his children to run to the boat while he was putting himself between the bear and his children to protect them,” Mr Kidlapid said. The children made it to the boat where his daughter summoned help on a shortwave radio. “We actually heard the call for help,” Mr Kidlapid said. “It was terrible to listen to.”
The call was heard by others on the island, who arrived to help. Police said one of them shot and killed the bear.
Polar bear attacks on humans have risen steadily in the past decade, a phenomenon blamed on steadily shrinking sea ice and dwindling supplies of food. In Arviat, home to 2,500 people, locals have reported bears entering town and breaking into shacks. Last autumn, children in the town were allowed to go trick-or-treating on Hallowe’en, but only with an armed guard.