Issiah Oyukuluk lies next to dead polar bear in Arctic Bay, Nunavut.
A father in Canada’s far north says he was barely able to keep his tent closed against a polar bear that was trying to break in for food.
“This polar bear nearly killed me and my two boys,” Issiah Oyukuluk said on Facebook after the terrifying encounter Sept. 2.
“It almost went inside our tent but thanks to that dog for waking us up.”
Oyukuluk posted photos of himself lying next to the dead bear on the rocky beach of Arctic Bay, where he and others were camping on the September long weekend.
He said missing a zipper he gripped the tent door closed with his hands, while his dog barked excitedly and another hunter fired warning shots.
“The dog was barking like he never did before,” he said.
“That’s when we woke up and (were) just trying not to make sudden move.”
Issiah Oyukuluk, a dead polar bear, and the dog who saved him.
Oyukuluk thinks the bear was likely attracted by the “maktaa” or whale blubber he had by the tent.
The whole thing was the stuff of nightmares, he added.
“We didn’t sleep for few days straight; my younger one had sleepless night ever since.”
It could have been the third fatal polar bear attack this summer.
Already two other men – one also out on the land with his children – have been killed by polar bears in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.
Aaron Gibbons, 31, of Arviat died after he put himself between a bear and his family during an outing in early July.
But the number of bears is tightly controlled by the Nunavut government, which says the mammal is a protected species. Something some Inuit resent.
“What happens is there’s way too many of them nowadays,” Oyukuluk said on the Facebook page Inuit Hunting Stories of the Day.
“They’re turning to humans to kill because they lost mates and yet our government still thinks their endangered species.”
Other people, who posted on the same thread, agreed.
“Coincidence or what… all of a sudden these polar bears are suddenly attacking. Glad you and your family are okay,” said Gabe Natluitok Nirlungayuk.
“Southerners will now think it’s because of climate change.”
Whatever the reason, people in Nunavut say they are dealing with more bears.
“In my town in Arviat, we try this electric fence,” said Michael Akaralak. “It’s no good. The bear can go inside (after) one shot.”
“There’s been a lot of bears trying to attack,” agreed Amelia Adams.
“They must be hungry and trying to get ready for winter. But in the last couple weeks I notice a lot in all places around Nunavut has been very dangerous!”
Blood on nose of polar bear that was shot dead in Arctic Bay, NU.
On August 25, social media lit up with reports of a polar bear roaming the hamlet of Rankin Inlet, also in the Kivalliq.
Jon Powell said the young female was stalking him as he tended his fishing nets.
As he walked back to town with fresh fish in a tub, he said a neighbour alerted him the bear was coming out of the water behind him.
“It’s a predator, right? So, basically, it was doing its thing,” Powell told the Kivalliq News.
He said his Inuit relatives described it as a nuisance bear that now knew where to steal fish.
“When it became obvious it wasn’t going to stop I shot it twice to bring it down, and I immediately notified Wildlife and the Hunters and Trappers Organization of what happened.”
Powell said wildlife officers then distributed the bear meat to people in the community.
A spokesman for the Nunavut government (GN) says this is the deadliest year for polar bear attacks since 1999.
“The GN is very concerned about bear human conflict and protecting life and property is our highest priority,” said Peter Polanowski of the Department of Environment.
Online, there are special rules for when the animals can be killed, by whom and under what circumstances.
A certain number of bears are allowed to be hunted every year in designated communities and areas of the territory.
Something called an “emergency kill” is permitted to preserve human life, protect a person’s property or prevent starvation.
Meanwhile, Kayla Katokra gave thanks on Facebook that Oyukuluk and his family were safe.
“Thank God, all is good,” she wrote. “Dogs are heroes, too.”