Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut July 06, 2018 - 3:00 pm

Anger and grief hit Nunavut community following polar bear attack

"He'll be missed"

Arviat residents want stricter wildlife management to prevent a growing number of polar bear–human encounters along the western Hudson Bay coast—this after a young man was mauled to death on July 3. (FILE PHOTO)
Arviat residents want stricter wildlife management to prevent a growing number of polar bear–human encounters along the western Hudson Bay coast—this after a young man was mauled to death on July 3. (FILE PHOTO)

A Nunavut community wants stricter wildlife management to prevent a growing number of polar bear–human encounters along the western Hudson Bay coast, after a young man was mauled to death on July 3.

But first, residents of Arviat said they need time to grieve and support the bereaved family.

Aaron Gibbons, 31, was visiting nearby Sentry Island on July 3 with his three young children last Tuesday when a polar bear approached the group.

Gibbons shouted for his daughters to go to the family’s boat to radio for help from the community, about 10 kilometres away.

Residents say his daughter’s anguished pleas for help were heard in many homes in the community of 2,700.

Relatives say Gibbons got between the bear and his children in order to protect them. He had carried a .22 rifle with him on the outing, but he was unarmed at the time the bear attacked him.

Gibbons was pronounced dead by police and first responders soon afterward.

Another Arviat resident shot and killed the bear shortly after the attack on Gibbons; no one else was physically injured in the incident.

Government of Nunavut wildlife officials are investigating the incident and said that information on the bear’s health should be available in the days to come.

Until then, it’s too soon to say what exactly could have triggered the bear’s aggression.

Sentry Island, a quick boat ride from Arviat, is a popular spot for fishing and beluga whale hunting, for humans and bears alike.

Over the last year, residents say there have been higher than usual numbers of bears coming through the community, with some of those visits creating dangerous encounters with community members.

But Gibbons died outside the community, in a place bears don’t typically interact with humans, noted John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove.

“We’ve definitely noticed an increase of bears coming into the community. Deterrent work is important, but this is an island that’s about 10 kilometres away from the community,” he said. “So it’s not necessary part of it—it’s wilderness.”

Main said the community should wait for the results of the investigation before wildlife officers or the local HTO make any decisions or changes on how to manage the potential threat bears pose to the community and surrounding areas.

“The problem isn’t going away,” Main said. “I hope the community will eventually get together to discuss this and make sure no family ever has to go through this again.

“At this point, everyone is just in shock and grieving,” he said. “We’re all rallying behind the family.”

“He was a young father and a good person. It’s fair to say he’ll be missed.”

Family members are collecting donations for Gibbons’ children here.

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(20) Comments:

#1. Posted by uvaga on July 06, 2018

Charlie Harper
If this were in Alberta, Fish & Wildlife would be out killing them all. Just like they do with cougars and grizzlies

#2. Posted by Cory on July 06, 2018

“how to manage the potential threat bears pose to the community and surrounding areas.”

After this, I think the people of Arviat know how to treat bears the pose a threat. Bears are smart they will learn not to be so close to people.

#3. Posted by You’ll see on July 06, 2018

Arviat residents have been very tolerant with bears around the community for a very long time, just so they won’t put a dent in their quota. Which is too small for the population. You’ll see after this event, this tolerance has vanished! No more bears will be tolerated. That will be the way to manage them now. The quota is too little anyway. Why preserve something when it’s not there anyway!

#4. Posted by Uncle Bob on July 07, 2018

So Sad for this to happen in the Arviat area, My condolences go out to Aaron’s family.
We now have the usual reaction when such a issue comes up “Kill all the bears”.
In Australia we have on average 5oo people bitten by snakes a year, of which about two die. That doesn’t mean that we are all out bashing snakes to death with sticks, we tend to live with the problem and try to take care when out in the bush.

#5. Posted by iRoll on July 08, 2018

#1 I think your comment is ridiculous and false. So, I invite you to provide some evidence that it is true.

#6. Posted by Mark on July 09, 2018

What a brave and loving dad!

#7. Posted by Evelyn Thordarson on July 09, 2018

I would like to send my condolences to Aaron Gibbons family such a tragedy to all of Arviat alike.

#8. Posted by Ms.T on July 11, 2018

Shoot all the polar bears that are sighted!

#9. Posted by uvaga on July 11, 2018

Hi iRoll how is the weather in Churchill? lots of tourist this month?

#10. Posted by Cory on July 11, 2018

#4 that’s in Australia, maybe it has been like that from the beginning? But here it has not been like that and we have been trying to use foreign rules and laws.

Now we would like to go back and use our way, it doesn’t mean we will be killing every single bear out there but problem bears, dangerous bears might get shot now, others bears will learn to stay a good distance away, they are smart animals they will learn, instead of what they have learned the last decade or so.

#11. Posted by B Aglukark on July 11, 2018

Inuit have used this land to feed our families for centuries, as told in the stories by our elders. Stories go beyond the birth of this nation. This governing system has failed us in many aspects of our lifestyle. The euphoria of the land claims agreement & the birth of the nu govt is failing us. All levels govt have failed us. The recent death of Aaron Gibbons by the PB attack I witnessed firsthand, and, being the first to respond in a “failed attempt” to save his life is clear proof of the failure of a system that promised and promises to protect the our way of life. If this system first took into account the value of a life, a soul, Utagannaaq would still be alive. The system protects the PB first, with no thought or weight to our traditional lifestyle. As of today, in the absence of a system that protects Inuit, our traditional life style, when I come across a PB while hunting to feed my family, I shall without remorse, guilt kill the PB and leave its carcass where it fell.

#12. Posted by Thats why on July 12, 2018

Looks like BA has some hate and likes to blame others. BA take the beam out of your eye before you talk about a splinter in other peoples eyes. When someone takes their own life be it with a rope or gun does that mean its the rope makers or the gun makers fault that a person died? are you also going to throw away each and every rope/gun away? Thank you for your attempt to save this person and Nunavut thanks you. But blaming and hating others will not help anyone. Please read the passage in the bible when Jesus talks about the beam in our eyes.

#13. Posted by Destiny on July 12, 2018

People will always blame someone or something in sad situations like
A few years back a young man was drowned in our community.
He had been drinking and driving his boat, no life jacket, he fell into the
water 30 meters from shore.
His people blamed the boat, the engine, even the Co-op where he had
bought the boat, and the GN for not providing life jackets.
He had a life jacket in the boat, but was not wearing it. .????

#14. Posted by B Aglukark on July 12, 2018

#12 “That’s why”. I usually do not make a consious effort to respond to people holding behind an alias.  I have a general idea of who you are.  Truthfully- I am disppointed with the system that protect only the polar bear.  Am I angry yes, at the silence of our elected officials including bodies such as the HTO for not stepping up to protect our genuine lifestyle and th dangers and challenges we face to live.  Hate another whole realm I do not devulge myself into.  And yes the plank/beam in my eye is filtered through the “word” constantly.  Polar Bears come close to the level of what I would consider hatred.  The fact that it took an innocent life, and, when folks like yourself ignore it’s devastation and the value of what was lost- your attitude towards it is scary.

#15. Posted by Me and me only (Kitikmeot) on July 12, 2018

A good statement, of course it is up to individuals to do, or not do as
they see fit.
When I go out on the land I carry a 303 Ranger rifle, with 8 shots in
the clip. It ain’t rocket science.
My condolences for what you witnessed, and what you went through,
but what calibre of gun did you have ?
Who are you trying to blame for this tragedy?
If persons concerned had been carrying more powerful guns and been
keeping a good look-out, I believe the outcome would have been

#16. Posted by uvaga on July 12, 2018

so what if we blame anything, I am very mad for his little kids having to watch the father suffer, I will say anything for the kids and this time I will point my fingers.

#17. Posted by Oopik on July 12, 2018

Interjecting “blame” for this situation is so wrong. The reality here is that for centuries Inuit did not tolerate polar bears and would kill on site, as such bears would respect the Inuit. (Exceptions to this rule would be young bears, who learned quickly that if they prowled on campgrounds they weren’t welcome. Another instance would be hardtimes, wherein natural prey of the bear is scarce - out of desperation the bear would attack a camp. Still, bears weren’t tolerated and would be killed or scared away.) Colonialist protections for the “endangered” beast have held Inuit back from this practice - and it appears that the bears have become accustomed to the new practice - and prowl within town/city limits, and attack campsites frequently. Inuit have been respectful of the government ways and tried the colonialist style. Given recent events I think Inuit are done with the new practice and will revert to old practices. human life >animal life IMO

#18. Posted by Erich Fromm on July 13, 2018

#14 B Aglukark,

You have obviously been traumatized by what you saw, in that respect your rage is understandable, though it is also unfortunate and sadly, irrational.

This notion that you should just drop a polar bear in its tracks, or as #17 suggests, that killing polar bears indiscriminately is “traditional” are not sensible or believable solutions.

Your propensity to “blame the system” is odd and misdirected. What system would have changed any of this? Unless you mean that Polar Bears should be mowed down in an act of remorseless speciecide.

Your comments that are childish and absurd.

#19. Posted by on July 16, 2018

How stupid could people be, movies show it could happen look at Jurrasic Park this is the LIVE version happening in Canada and WWF and people in money (petri-dish culture, ignorant, selfish plastic) help make it happen.
They have the means to make it look like its the northern peoples fault (they have the money, look at the people they put in power like Trump its all money, money stops them from looking further money stops their fear

#20. Posted by Lobie Dozer on July 16, 2018

# 19, What in the name, are you talking about?
Are you serious, mixed up, or plain bloody daft ?
Read comment # 15, explains it all.

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