A 31-year-old man was fatally mauled by a polar bear while protecting his children alongside Hudson Bay, according to his family.
Aaron Grant Gibbons of Arviat died on the evening of July 3 after an outing to Sentry Island, 10 kilometres outside the community in the southern Arctic.
Gibbons’ uncle, Gordy Kidlapik, said his nephew laid down his life for his kids.
“My qangiaq (nephew in Inuktitut) died a hero today. The bear surprised him and his children, so he put himself between them and the bear to let them escape,” Kidlapik posted on Twitter.
Kidlapik said it was heartbreaking to hear Gibbons’ children cry for help over the CB radio in their boat – a critical form of communication in the territory.
He posted a photo of people waiting on the shore in Arviat for Gibbons’ body to arrive home.
To hear irngutaq – his young daughter having to call on CB radio and crying to her grandmother, my aik, immediately after the mauling…we were very helpless. To hear my aik calling out to my qangiaq, asking if he’s okay…very heart breaking. His body was brought in at 11:15
— Gordy Kidlapik (@Irngutaq) July 4, 2018
Sentry Island is a popular place for people to go fishing, hunting and collecting birds’ eggs. It’s also a busy place where bears cross to head farther north.
Police said Gibbons was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The polar bear was put down by another adult as other individuals were on the island nearby,” Arviat RCMP said in a release.
“Our condolences are extended to the family [at this] very difficult time.”
A grieving Kidlapik lashed out at outfitters in nearby Churchill, Man., who market access to polar bears to tourists from around the world.
”@churchillwild making a wild dangerous bear accustomed to getting close to humans without deterrent,” he tweeted.
“It could have been one of these bears that killed my qangiaq.”