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Alaska's First Fatal Polar Bear Attack In 30 Years Claims Two Lives

A mother with her infant son likely didn’t see the animal due to severe weather.

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Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

clockJan 20 2023, 11:29 UTC
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polar bear attack

As polar bears increasingly wander into communities, initiatives are trying to keep people and bears safe with radar tracking technology. Image credit: Reimar/Shutterstock.com

Residents in Wales, Alaska, are mourning the deaths of two residents following a polar bear attack on Tuesday, the first in the US state in 30 years. According to the Alaska Department Of Public Safety State Troopers Public Information Office, locals Summer Myomick, 24, and her 1-year-old son, Clyde Ongtowasruk came across the polar bear while walking between a medical center and a school.

Severe snowfall may have facilitated the fatal attack, as white-out conditions would’ve made it near-impossible to see the polar bear. While it's been several decades since the last fatal attack, polar bears are known to see humans as prey, which is why initiatives like Polar Bears International’s Bear-Dar are trying to better track these animals to help local communities stay safe.

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A lockdown was ordered at the school and staff attempted to stop the bear by banging shovels, but the polar bear responded by trying to charge the door. NBC News reports that Principal Dawn Hendrickson was able to shut the door in time, potentially preventing further fatalities, but they were unable to reach Myomick.

The whaling community of Wales, Alaska doesn’t have law enforcement, but eventually an as-of-yet unidentified resident fatally shot the bear. Unfortunately, by this time it was already too late for Myomick and her son. 

The climate crisis is reducing habitats available to polar bears, increasingly pushing them towards human communities as sea ice recedes and forms later year-on-year. Polar Bears International are hoping to mitigate the human loss from increasing proximity to polar bears with Bear-Dar, a technology that uses AI to spot polar bears before they reach people.

You can support the developing technology here and contribute towards an effective early detection radar system that can help keep people and polar bears safe.


natureNaturenatureanimals
  • tag
  • climate change,

  • animals,

  • polar bear,

  • polar bears,

  • Alaska,

  • habitat loss,

  • ice melting,

  • polar bear attack

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