It was the first fatal polar bear attack in 30 years in Alaska, the only state where the animals live.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The summer mommy bundled up her baby. Against the frigid wind blowing in from the Bering Sea and stepped outside into the fluffy snow. It was a short walk from the school where she met relatives at the health clinic about 150 yards away. But the young mother could hardly see where she was going — or the terror that was coming.
Myomik, 24, and her son, 1-year-old Clyde Ongtowasruk. Were making it outside the front of the Kinkymute School in Wells. Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle, when a polar bear burst out of the impenetrable. Snow squall and mauled them. tuesday It was the first fatal polar bear attack in 30 years in Alaska, the only U.S. state where the animals live.
As the attack unfolds, the principal orders a lockdown. And closes the blinds so the children cannot see what is happening outside the entrance. Several employees and community members. Left the safety of the building and tried to scare the bear away with shovels.
The mauling stopped temporarily. But only when the animal turned on them and they came back inside. According to Bering Strait School District Chief Administrator Susan Nedza. Principal Don Hendrickson slammed the door in the charging bear’s face. Possibly saving a life.
“Polar bears were chasing them and trying to get in,” said Nedza. Who received frantic calls about the attack in Unalakleet, about 250 miles away. “Just terrifying. … Something you’ve never experienced.
With no law enforcement in Wales, so the bear is still out there, a call has gone out to members of the community for help. An unidentified man brought a gun and killed the bear as it continued to maul Mayomic and her son.
Alaska State Troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel told The Associated Press on Thursday. That the mother and child appeared to have no idea because of low visibility.
Wells, a whaling community, is the westernmost point of the North American mainland. Just 50 miles from Russia across the Bering Strait – and is home to about 150 people, almost all Inupiat. It is accessible by plane and boat, along with barges that deliver household goods. Winter trails provide snowmobile access to other communities and livelihoods.
Kinkymute School, like other schools in many rural Alaska. Native communities, doubles as a community center. The view before it, where the attack took place, was an endless expanse of frozen snow and ice to the horizon.
Nedja, the school’s district superintendent. Said she received a call from a distraught Hendrickson shortly. After 2 p.m. tuesday He said the students were locked down and safe. A blizzard that camouflaged the bear, along with a lack of runway lights on Wells’ gravel airstrip. Prevented an officer from Alaska State Troopers and a state wildlife officer from. Nome from investigating until Wednesday.
It is not known what led to the attack. But, polar bears see humans as prey, said Geoff York. Senior director of conservation at Polar Bear International.
Samples of the bear were taken for the state veterinarian. And the bodies of Mayomic and her son were eventually transported. To Nome for transport to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage.
School was canceled Wednesday. So, students could be with their families. And the school district flew counselors to Wells. The school planned a soft opening Thursday. And Friday with no classes but opportunities for students to meet with counselors. Eat or play a game, Nedja said.
In 2019, US Geological Survey Alaska scientists found that changes. In sea ice habitat coincided with evidence. That polar bear land use was increasing and that polar bear encounters had increased.
Polar bears are the largest bear species, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Males typically weigh 600 to 1,200 pounds but can exceed 1,700 pounds and reach up to 10 feet in length. Females weigh 400 to 700 pounds. Polar bears usually eat seals, but walruses and beluga whales also eat them.
Both laws prohibit harming animals without permission unless necessary for human safety.