A Canadian man who died last week after being mauled by a polar bear is being praised as a hero for protecting his children during the bear attack.
Aaron Gibbons, 31, was in the far north of Canada along Sentry Island in Hudson Bay when the attack took place, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Gibbons’ uncle, Gordy Kidlapik, according to ABC.
The RCMP said in a statement that Gibbons was unarmed at the time of the attack.
“The bear started to stalk or charge one of his children,” Kidlapik said, according to The Guardian. “He told his children to run back to the boat and put himself between his children and the bear.”
“The bear surprised them and he started trying to distract it … It turned on him as they were running,” Kidlapik said.
Once the children reached the family’s boat, they called for help using the boat’s CB radio.
“We actually heard the call for help,” said Kidlapik, according to CTV News. “It was terrible to listen to.”
“He died a hero,” said Kidlapik.
The bear was later shot and killed by nearby adults. The last polar bear attack in the region was 18 years ago.
Dan Pimentel of Nunavut’s Environment Department said officials will examine the bear to determine if there was a health reason for 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.”
The community near the site of the attack said it felt the loss.
“It’s really just incredibly sad. We’re a small community and when something like this happens, it affects the whole community,” said John Main, a local representative from the area, according to CNN.
Kidlapik noted that he had raised concerns about the activity of Churchill Wild, which operates walking tours in which tourists can observe polar bears.
In a Twitter post, he used an Inuit word for “nephew” to describe Gibbons’ action.
“Walk with bears tour” leaves Inuit having to defend against approaching bears that lost their fear of humans. pic.twitter.com/8ASeWnssF5
— Gordy Kidlapik (@Irngutaq) July 4, 2018
The organization released a statement in response.
“While we are aware that some members of the media have reported that a relative of Mr. Gibbons has stated on Twitter that he feels that this incident may be linked to the fact that polar bears have become habituated to contact with people, this is not our observation,” the organization said in a statement.
“Research suggests that polar bear attacks are typically associated with nutritional stress in the animal,” Churchill Wild told ABC News in a statement. “We don’t know yet the circumstances surrounding this incident nor the motivation for the attack so we aren’t in a position to provide an educated comment as to the cause.”
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