While polar bears may look adorable in a zoo, they are still bears and therefore encountering one can be lethal, as one Canadian family found out. CNN reports that Aaron Gibbons, 31, stood between his children and a polar bear who crossed their path while visiting an island in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. They were visiting Sentry Island, which is a popular area for fishing and hunting when the family was approached by the animal.
“Definitely Aaron died a hero, he protected his children,” said Gibbons’ cousin, Eric Anoee. “It’s [the] right word to say right now,” he told CBC.
The man’s death has devastated the Arviat, Nunavut community of 2,500 that he hails from. “We are still in shock but we are resilient and we will go on and continue as a community,” said Anoee.
John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, agreed with Anoee’s sentiments, saying that because they’re such a small community, it affects everyone. He spoke of the need to focus on what led up to this happening so they can work to prevent it from happening again. The last death in the area that involved a polar bear happened 18 years ago in Rankin Inlet. But polar bears have been visiting the area more and more, with less fear of humans.
“Living in the edge of the community myself, I’ve seen first-hand how when the bears migrate to here in the fall time, how tense it can get,” said Anoee to CBC.
There have been efforts made to try to fix the issue. A polar bear patrol program was created in 2010, with the WWF-Canada on hand to monitor the edges of the community when the bears are most likely to wander by, usually in October and November. But lately, bears have been sighted as early as summer and even spring. Doing this has decreased the number of bears they have had to kill, according to the organization. The territory’s Department of Environment released a report in 2016 which said that “205 bears were deterred by the program in the Western Hudson Bay area while 29 bears were relocated” after being found in traps. Only four bears were killed as a defensive measure to protect property.
Smartly, CBC also reports, the community moved their trick or treating adventures to indoor facilities, not wishing to attract the bears with food and young children being within their grasp. If any does happen outside, then protection is provided to ensure the safety of those involved.