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

Person in serious condition after potential drowning in Abbotsford

Individual airlifted after incident at a home on Tuesday afternoon

Gangster Jarrod Bacon released from prison for third time

Parole board continues to express concerns about Bacon’s behaviour

UPDATE: Charges laid after boy, 7, allegedly abducted by mom in Abbotsford

Child returned to dad in Langley, charges now laid against mom and partner

Drive-Thru Safari a success for Abbotsford Agrifair

Organizers state that over 1,250 vehicles took in the event over the weekend

Banter ice cream shop arrives in Abbotsford

Jubilee Park location has proven popular for new establishment

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village

Fraser Health is on site implementing outbreak protocols at the seniors care facility

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

UPDATE: Man injured in targeted shooting in Maple Ridge

Shots fired from one vehicle into a white Hyundai

Most Read