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Mother and son die after being attacked by a polar bear in Alaska


The deadly assault was the first of its kind in more than 30 years in the state. The inhabitants of the community of Wales affirmed that the animals are not usually in the area at this time and that is why they were not alert.

By Mark Thiessen and Patrick Whittle -

The Associated Press

A polar bear chased several residents around a small, isolated Alaska Native whaling village, killing a mother and her 1-year-old son in an extremely rare attack before another community member shot and killed the bear, they said. The authorities.

The deadly attack, the first in more than 30 years in Alaska, occurred Tuesday near the school in Wales, an isolated Bering Strait coastal community at the westernmost tip of the North American continent -- about 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Russia – which is no stranger to co-existing with polar bears.

Summer Myomick, of Saint Michael, and her son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, were killed in the attack, Alaska State Police said in a statement.

Myomick's parents declined interviews with The Associated Press news agency when contacted Wednesday at their home.

In this June 15, 2014 file photo released by the US Geological Survey, a polar bear dries off after bathing in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska.AP

“It's very, very sad for Saint Michael right now, and for Wales,” said Virginia Washington, Saint Michael's city manager.

She said Myomick divided her time between the two communities.

“She was a very sweet and very responsible woman,” Washington said.

Like many remote Alaskan villages, the predominantly Inupiaq community of about 150 organize patrols when bears are expected to arrive, from July through early November, that is, before sea ice forms and bears out into the frozen landscape to hunt seals.

This makes what happened this week almost unheard of, because polar bears are often far away on the ice in the dead of winter and not close to towns, said Geoff York, senior director of conservation at Polar Bear International, a conservation group.

The last fatal encounter with a polar bear in Alaska occurred in 1990.

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"He would have been walking around the Welsh community probably without any (bear) deterrents because historically that's the time of year that it's safe," added York, who has decades of experience studying polar bears.

"You don't expect to see bears because they would be out on the sea ice hunting seals and doing their thing."

Bad weather and a lack of lights on the gravel track in Wales prevented officers and wildlife officials from reaching the scene on Tuesday after the attack.

On Wednesday they tried again.

When asked to describe the state of mind in Wales on Wednesday, Dawn Hendrickson, the school's principal, called it "traumatic."

Classes were canceled and counselors made available.

She said there have been no memorial announcements for the two victims yet.

“We are in the initial phase,” she stated.

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It's not clear if this attack is related to climate change, but it is consistent with what is expected as the Arctic continues to warm four times more than the rest of the Earth, changing the ecosystem in ways that are not yet fully understood. York added.

However, this particular bear is a member of a population that is doing well, said Andrew Derocher, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta and an expert on polar bears.

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US Geological Survey scientists in Alaska found in 2019 that changes in sea ice habitat had coincided with evidence that polar bears' land use was increasing and that the odds of an encounter with a polar bear had risen.

Wales is just over 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Nome.

The community is accessible by plane and by boat, including barges carrying household goods.

Winter trails allow snowmobile access to other communities.

Off-road vehicles are used for non-winter hunting and fishing trips.

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Polar bears are the largest bear species, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Males can weigh more than 1,700 pounds, but typically weigh between 600 and 1,200 pounds and reach 10 feet in length.

Females weigh between 181 and 318 kilograms.

Polar bears usually feed on seals, but also on walruses and belugas.

Polar bears are at the top of the food chain and view humans as a source of food, York said.

Deadly encounters with polar bears often involve young bears, usually males, who are hungry all the time, or older bears who are injured or sick and have difficulty ingesting enough calories.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2023-01-19

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