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

Forestry workers set to begin job action in Kootenays

Operations in Castlegar, Cranbrook, Galloway, Elko, Radium, Golden may see job action this week.

Road trip comes to end with split for Grand Forks Border Bruins

The team is coming off its longest road trip this season.

Grand Forks high school students remember

The school and the Legion joined for the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Letter: English town remembers Grand Forks on anniversary of Armistice

Phillip Morris writes from Shrewsbury, England.

Children’s books needed for Christmas hampers

Considering donating some books this Christmas.

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in B.C. classroom

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected in a few days

Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist for The Washington Post who was slain Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

Most Read