Mother Polar Bear and Cub Shot, Killed After Fatal Attack on Hunter

polar bear, cub shot and killed during attack on hunter
Arturo, the only polar bear in Argentina living in captivity at a zoo in Mendoza, is pictured in his enclosure on February 5, 2014. A polar bear and her cub were shot and killed after fatally attacking a hunter in Canada. ANDRES LARROVERE/AFP/Getty Images

A polar bear and her cub were shot and killed after attacking a group of hunters in a northern Canadian territory fatally wounding one.

The three hunters were from Naujaat, Nunavut, located on the Arctic Circle, and set out in search of narwhal and caribou on August 21, according to the Edmonton Journal. Police were notified of their disappearance on Sunday after the group of three still hadn't returned despite being expected back on the 23rd.

On Monday, federal, territorial and local teams began a search for the hunters. A Coast Guard helicopter found the group on Tuesday near Lyon Inlet, about 62 miles from Naujaat. Leo Ijjangiaq, one of the hunters who survived the attack, told CBC News that on the morning of the 23rd, the group was having tea when they saw a mother polar bear and her cub approach their camp.

In an attempt to scare the bears away, he fired his rifle into the air, but the mother bear attacked Laurent Junior Uttak, biting his head. Darryl Kaunak attempted to run away, but the bear chased him down and mauled him to death. After shooting the bear once with his rifle, Ijjangiq said the firearm jammed so he grabbed another gun and fatally shot the bear and the cub.

Despite sustaining his own injuries, Uttak and Ijjangiaq attempted to administer first aid on Kaunak, but were unable to save him.

In the days between the attack and their rescue, other polar bears approached the camp and Ijjangiaq told CBC News that he was willing to take criminal responsibility for killing them.

"[The hunters] killed at least one more," Rob Hedley, administrator for the hamlet of Naujaat, Nunavut, told the Edmonton Journal. "There were multiple other bears in the area that were attracted by blood and scent."

Uttak and Ijjangiaq had covered Kaunak with a tarp and refused to leave his body behind. Ultimately, all three men were airlifted out of the area by helicopter.

This is the second fatal polar bear attack in the area this summer. In July, 31-year-old Aaron Gibbons was killed. He was with his two daughters when a bear approached the family. To save his children, he told them to run and placed himself between the bear and his kids, according to BBC News.

Unlike the fallout from the killing of a polar bear that attacked a cruise ship guard, when people were largely outraged at the killing of the animal, following the attack on Kaunak, the community railed against laws protecting the animals.

Naujaat resident Helena Malliki told the Edmonton Journal that quota laws limiting the number of bears that can be killed in each region are increasing interactions with the dangerous animals.

Gordy Kidlapik, Gibbons' uncle, said that the bear population has reached a level that a quota isn't necessary, but polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher believes it has less to do with a hunting quota and more to do with changing landscapes.

Derocher explained to the Edmonton Journal that with less ice for the bears to wander onto, they're moving ashore, which increases the chances they'll come into contact with people.

In Canada, a flexible quota system is used and each year a number is determined based on a series of factors, including the total population of bears and if the quota was met the previous year, to achieve a sustainable limit. Derocher told the Edmonton Journal that last year, Naujaat was given a quota of 100 bears, which hunters didn't meet.

Although there have been multiple polar bear attacks this summer, BBC explained that being attacked by a polar bear is actually quite uncommon and from 1870 to 2014 researchers documented only 73 attacks.