The bear entered Wales, a small town on the shore of the Bering Strait, on Tuesday, “and chased several residents”, according to the first elements disclosed on Wednesday by the police of this American state. “The attack allegedly took place in the village, near the school” and “the animal was shot by a resident”, while attacking the young woman, Summer Myomick, and her son Clyde Ongtowasruk, one year old.
A particularly unusual attack in January
Police and specialized agents must be sent to this village of about 150 people, populated by the Inupiat tribe. But they are currently facing “bad weather conditions” which prevent them from going there, according to the police.
“Historically, it is very rare for a polar bear to attack and kill a person, anywhere in the Arctic,” however reassured Geoff York of the NGO Polar Bears International. “It’s even rarer for this to happen in the middle of January in the northern Arctic where ice is plentiful and polar bears are usually on the pack ice hunting seals. Worldwide, twenty people were killed out of a total of 73 polar bear attacks recorded between 1870 and 2014, according to the NGO. The last fatal attack in Alaska dates back to 1990, according to Geoff York.
In general, the melting of the sea ice caused by global warming, pushes the plantigrades on the continent more regularly and “increases the frequency of interactions between polar bears and humans”, continued the scientist. But “historically, most attacks have taken place between late July and early December, during the ice-free period”. The attacks are generally carried out by “young bears (…) who are voracious because their bodies require energy for their growth”, or “bears at the end of their life who have difficulty fighting with other bears for good hunting areas.
In Alaska, polar bears are found only on the far northern and western coasts of the state. Climate change, which is melting its main habitat, the pack ice, is threatening the bear species.