Canadian man dies protecting his children from polar bear

PHOTO: The last polar bear mauling in the region is believed to have happened 18 years ago in Rankin Inlet.PlaySTOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
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A Canadian man was hailed as a hero by his family after he died protecting his children from a polar bear.

Aaron Gibbons, 31, was at a popular fishing and hunting place on Sentry Island in Hudson Bay, approximately 10 kilometers from the hamlet of Arviat on the western shore, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Gibbons’s uncle, Gordy Kidlapik.

When Gibbons saw the bear, he jumped in between his children and the animal and told his kids to run to the boat, Kilapik told ABC News via direct message on Twitter.

“The bear surprised them and he started trying to distract it, also telling his children to run to the boat,” Kidlapik told ABC News. “It turned on him as they were running.”

Gibbons' children ran and called for help on CB radio, Kidlapik said on Twitter, referring to Gibbons as “qangiaq,” the Inuinnaqtun word for nephew.

“Thank you to the many that have given their condolences. Sorry for sharing what I felt, but my anger to watch what the family is having to deal with ...i t didn’t have to happen. I still hear his young daughter on CB crying for help. My qangiaq, hero,” Kidlapik tweeted.

Gibbons was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The victim was unarmed at the time of the attack,” officials said. “The polar bear was put down by another adult as other individuals were on the island nearby.”

“My qangiaq died a hero today," Kidlapik wrote on Twitter. "The bear surprised him and his children, so he put himself between them and the bear to let them escape. The bear had no fear.”

Kidlapik told ABC News via direct message on Twitter that he had raised concern about the bear to Churchill Wild, which operates polar bear walking tours, but his Twitter account had been blocked.

“Also please add to clarify that it was not my firs time to raise the concerns to Churchill Wild. I’ve been letting them know for some time and they had even blocked me in April. I had included them in my tweets that day as a reminder,” he told ABC News.

Churchill Wild offered "sincere condolences" to Gibbons' family but did not address the issue of whether it blocked Kidlapik's tweets.

"While we are aware that some members of the media have reported that a relative of Mr. Gibbons has stated on Twitter that he feels that this incident may be linked to the fact that polar bears have become habituated to contact with people, this is not our observation," the organization said in a statement.

"Research suggests that polar bear attacks are typically associated with nutritional stress in the animal," Churchill Wild told ABC News in a statement. "We don’t know yet the circumstances surrounding this incident nor the motivation for the attack so we aren’t in a position to provide an educated comment as to the cause."

"Our family has been living and working in and around Churchill, Manitoba for almost a century," the organization said. "Polar bears have never been fearful of people, in our experience. We’ve learned over the years that specific precautions and actions need to be taken to avoid too-personal polar bear encounters. Polar bears have no natural predators, other than other polar bears. Polar bears have been visiting communities, homes, cabins and picnics for as long as we’ve lived in the North."

It is unclear how many children Gibbons had and how many were with him at the time of the attack.

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