Mother, Son Die in Rare Polar Bear Attack

Fatal polar bear mauling took place in isolated town of Wales
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2023 9:45 AM CST
Updated Jan 19, 2023 1:29 AM CST
Polar Bear Kills 2 in Remote Alaskan Town
In this June 15, 2014, file photo, a polar bear dries off after taking a swim in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska.   (Brian Battaile/US Geological Survey via AP, File)
UPDATE Jan 19, 2023 1:29 AM CST

It was a 24-year-old mother and her 1-year-old son who were killed in a rare polar bear attack in a small, remote Alaska Native whaling village Tuesday. Authorities identified the victims as Summer Myomick, who split her time between Wales, where the attack took place, and Saint Michael; and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk. Witnesses tell the AP the polar bear started chasing people near a school, and school officials tried to get people inside—and keep the bear, which was trying to enter, out. Myomick and her son were walking between the school and a clinic when they were attacked. Climate change has been expected to increase incidents like this, but experts note the bear in question came from a population that is doing "fairly well," per the AP. This is Alaska's first fatal polar bear mauling since 1990.

Jan 18, 2023 9:45 AM CST

Two are dead in a tiny Alaskan town after an interloping polar bear went on the attack. The AP, citing KTUU, reports the mauling took place Tuesday around 2:30pm local time in the village of Wales, located on the state's western Seward Peninsula. Alaska State Troopers note it appeared "a polar bear had entered the community" made up of about 150 mostly native Inupiaq people and "had chased multiple residents." A local grabbed their gun and fatally shot the bear as it attacked a woman and a boy, but it was too late—both victims died from their injuries, police say.

Although polar bear attacks remain rare in Alaska, they've started to grow in number as more ice melts, the bears' habitats recede, and the bears move inland. The BBC cites a 2017 Wildlife Society study that shows polar bear attacks on people have spiked since 2000, with the time period between July and December being peak encounter months, as that's when sea ice doesn't cover as much ground. The Alaska Department of Public Safety notes that officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, as well as additional police officers, "are working to travel to Wales as weather conditions allow" to investigate the attack, per ABC News. (More polar bear stories.)

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