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Polar Bear Attack In Alaska Kills Mother & 1-Year-Old Son

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Polar Bear Attack In Alaska Kills Mother & 1-Year-Old Son

(CTN NEWS) – ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A polar bear followed several individuals around a tiny, secluded Alaska Native whaling hamlet, killing a mother and her 1-year-old kid in an extraordinarily uncommon incident before another community member shot and killed the bear, authorities said.

Wales, an isolated Bering Strait coastal village on the westernmost part of the North American mainland about 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Russia, is used to living alongside polar bears.

Alaska State Troopers stated that Summer Myomick of Saint Michael and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, were killed in the attack.

Her parents rejected AP interviews Wednesday at their home.

Some villages in Alaska form patrols during periods when polar bears are more likely to be moving about [Getty Images]

“It’s extremely sad for Saint Michael and Wales,” said Saint Michael municipal administrator Virginia Washington. She stated Myomick spent time in both neighborhoods.

Washington described her as “kind and responsible.”

Like many remote Alaskan towns, the mostly Inupiaq hamlet of 150 people arranges patrols when bears are expected in town from July to early November, before the sea ice forms and bears hunt seals on the frozen landscape.

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Geoff York, Polar Bear International’s senior director of conservation, said polar bears are usually far out on the ice in winter and not near villages, making this week’s event rare. 1990 was Alaska’s last polar bear death.

“I would have been wandering around the community of Wales probably without any (bear) deterrents because it’s historically the safe time of year,” said York, who has studied polar bears for decades.

“Bears hunt seals on the sea ice, so you don’t expect to see them.”

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After the polar bear incident on Tuesday, troopers and wildlife officials could not reach Wales due to poor weather and a lack of runway lights at the Wales gravel airstrip. Wednesday’s attempts continued.

Dawn Hendrickson, the school administrator, termed Wednesday in Wales “terrible.” The tragic attack canceled classes. Hendrickson said students are with their families. Students had counselors.

She stated memorials for the two victims had not been announced. “Nothing yet,” she said. “It’s early.”

York said this attack may have been tied to climate change because the Arctic is warming at four times the rest of the Earth, affecting the environment in ways that are still unknown.

Polar bear specialist Andrew Derocher, a University of Alberta professor of biological sciences, said this bear is part of a healthy population.

In 2019, U.S. Geological Survey scientists in Alaska observed that changes in sea ice habitat correlated with polar bears’ usage of land and increased odds of encounters.

Polar bear kills woman, young boy in Wales

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Wales is 161 kilometers from Nome. Airplanes and barges transport household supplies to the community. Snowmobile paths connect communities with subsistence hunting sites. Non-winter hunting and fishing utilize ATVs.

Polar bears are the largest bears, according to the USFWS. Males can weigh up to 1,700 pounds (771 kg) and reach 10 feet (3 metres). 400–700 pound women (181-317.5 kilograms). Polar bears eat seals, beluga whales, and walruses.

The Endangered Species Act categorized polar bears as vulnerable in 2008.

They’re Marine Mammal Protection Act-protected. Both statutes ban injuring animals without permission, except for human safety.

York stated polar bears are on top of the food chain and eat humans. He noted in a paper that male polar bears who are always hungry or older bears who are injured or unwell often kill people.

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York said both bear kinds are more likely to take chances, as in Wales.

Polar bears do not hibernate. Only pregnant females enter snow dens to reproduce. Polar bears hunt year-round on sea ice.

On its website, the Alaska Nannut Co-Management Council notes polar bears surrounding or entering towns pose persistent safety concerns for people in the polar bear region.

Wales, seeking funds to continue operations, and Diomede, a Native town, have polar bear patrols that safeguard youngsters walking to and from school in winter.

York, who has worked in the Arctic for 30 years, including 21 in Alaska, said Wales has long had a polar bear patrol programme and taken steps to keep polar bears out.

He stated, “This seems to be just one of those unfortunate examples where despite doing the proper things, we got a bear that was an anomaly at a time of year that you would never anticipate to happen.”

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The incident occurred far south in polar bears’ range, but University of Alberta biological sciences professor Derocher said it’s common for them to be there.

Derocher stated the Chukchi Sea polar bear population is surviving climate change. He claimed a bear drawn by food or waste rather than climate change may have attacked.

Derocher noted southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, east of the Chukchi Sea population, are worse.

The Chukchi and northern Bering seas have ice, but its condition is unknown. More crucially, York said they don’t know what’s under the ice or how many seals and prey polar bears have.

York said the shifts also happen in winter when people thought polar bears were secure on shore.

“Communities may not be,” he remarked.

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