A polar bear poses waits for the Hudson Bay to freeze over near Churchill, Man. Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

‘Very big shock:’ Nunavut man killed by polar bear while protecting kids

RCMP say bear stalked toward one of the children while they were on an island along Hudson Bay coast

A Nunavut man died this week while protecting his children from a rare polar bear attack.

RCMP say Aaron Gibbons, 31, was on an island about 10 kilometres from the hamlet of Arviat, along the west coast of Hudson Bay, on Tuesday afternoon when the bear attacked.

“He was enjoying his day with his children,” said Gordy Kidlapik, Gibbons’s uncle. “They were surprised by a bear that had started to stalk or charge toward one of his children.

“What (Aaron) did was he told his children to run away to the boat while he was putting himself between the bear and his children to protect them.”

The children, described as elementary school age, made it safely to the boat. One of the girls called for help on the CB radio.

“We actually heard the call for help,” said Kidlapik. ”It was terrible to listen to.”

Gibbons was pronounced dead at the scene.

Kidlapik said his nephew would have had a rifle with him.

“That island, you know, it’s one of the places where there will be bears. It’s normal to walk around with a rifle.”

RCMP said Gibbons didn’t have his rifle immediately to hand when the bear attacked. They said the bear was shot and killed by other adults on what is known as Century Island.

Kidlapik said many in the hamlet stood on the beach Tuesday night under the midnight sun as Gibbons’s body was brought home.

“It’s a very big shock,” he said.

“There’s never been a mauling this serious since I started going out. It’s the first mauling that I know of.”

READ MORE: Polar bear, monarch butterfly among species on latest at-risk list

Dan Pimentel of Nunavut’s Environment Department said the last fatal polar bear mauling was in 2000 near Rankin Inlet, about 200 kilometres up the coast from Arviat.

Pimentel said little information was immediately available as to the bear’s condition at the time of the attack.

“That will have to wait until our conservation officers get there and are able to examine the bear. There’s only limited information you can get right away as to the health of the bear.”

Arviat is considered to be in the range of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population, estimated in 2016 to number about 840. The Polar Bear Specialist Group, an international body of experts, says that number is stable although it notes declines in body size and condition.

The hunting quota for local bears has steadily increased to 38 this year from 28 in 2016.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Preview

Look ahead to all the action scheduled for Feb. 16 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 4: Recap

Results and highlights from day 4 at the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 3: Recap

Highlights from around Day 3 of the tournament

Mermen calendar targets ‘toxic masculinity,’ raises big money for charities

Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club gave a cheque for more than $202,000 to Violence Prevention NL

Super snow moon set to rise across B.C.

It is the biggest and brightest moon of the year

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

After a week away, SNC-Lavalin questions await MPs returning to Parliament

Two have resigned already: Jody Wilson-Raybould was veterans affairs minister and Gerald Butts was Trudeau’s principal secretary

‘How did we get here?’: B.C. mom of transplant recipient worries about measles outbreaks

Addison, 7, cannot get a live vaccine because she has a heart transplant

Poverty coalition has high hopes for B.C. poverty reduction strategy

Funding allocation expected to be released with 2019 budget

Chanel: Iconic couturier Karl Lagerfeld has died

He spent virtually his entire career at luxury labels catering to the very wealthy

Most Read