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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Man sentenced for setting apartment barbecue on fire in Abbotsford

Michael Rodden climbed to second-storey balcony in March 2019

How do you hold a public hearing when public gatherings are banned?

City of Abbotsford discussing how to hold hearings with appropriate social distancing

Abbotsford golf courses remain open during COVID-19 pandemic

Ledgeview, Fraserglen and Valley Golf institute safety policies to fight coronavirus

120 more recreation staff laid off by City of Abbotsford

Job cuts from closure of public facilities, city will re-hire after health emergency passes

400 people assessed for COVID-19 at Abbotsford centre

Website and centre have been running for over a week

Trudeau announces 75% wage subsidy for small businesses amid COVID-19

This is up from the previously announced 10 per cent wage subsidy

World update, 9:30 p.m. March 27: Positive news in Korea as U.S. hits 100,000 cases

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam; cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

‘Now is not the time to bag that peak’: BCSAR manager discourages risky outdoor adventures

Call volumes are not going down, even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists

Food Banks BC already seeing surge in demand due to COVID-19 pandemic

Executive director Laura Lansink said they expect applications will keep increasing

BC Hockey, Vancouver Canucks encourage stick tapping to honour frontline health care workers

Families are encouraged to video themselves tapping their sticks at 7 p.m. and post to social media

Most Read