3 survive polar bear attack near Kangiqsualujjuaq
70-year-old man and his daughter treated for injuries; son kills bear and escapes unharmed
A 70-year-old man and his son and daughter survived a polar bear attack in their tent Wednesday night near Kangiqsualujjuaq, the village’s mayor says.
Kenny Assevak and his daughter Siqua Baron, 25, were taken to Kuujjuaq’s hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Assevak’s 35-year-old son, Neekallak Baron — who killed the bear — was not injured, said Kangiqsualujjuaq Mayor Maggie Emudluk.
It happened about 140 kilometres northeast of Kangiqsualujjuaq, where the attack victims live.
At around 3 a.m. Wednesday, Emudluk received a call saying three people who were travelling toward Killiniq had been attacked by a polar bear.
That morning, thick fog covered the community, meaning helicopter rescue was out of the question.
At around 4 a.m., a boat rescue team was mobilized and at 6:15 a.m., they arrived at the scene where they took both injured victims.
Neekallak Baron stayed behind to bring back a canoe. He was the one who killed the bear with a firearm from about one metre away, according to a Facebook post written by a close family member.
Throughout the rescue efforts, Siqua Baron remained in touch with family members in the community with her satellite system.
A group of people not far from the victims had reached them before the rescue team arrived.
The two victims made it back to the community at around 8:15 a.m.., where both were immediately medevaced to Kuujjuaq. Assevak was then transported to Montreal for treatment of his injuries.
By that time, Neekallak Baron had yet to return to the community.
At around 10:30 a.m., Emudluk said, another team was sent by helicopter to search for him. He was not answering the inReach system that was left with him.
Only at 5:30 p.m., did he respond to the messages, saying he was only 20 kilometres away from the community.
The polar bear’s remains were brought back to the community to be tested for rabies.
“It was not even a big polar bear,” Emudluk said, “it was a young adult polar bear.”
“I am very proud of the people that were involved in the rescue effort,” she said. “It was a good ending yesterday knowing the father and daughter are alive. In the end, they will be OK.”
When the son finally came back home, Emudluk said the community was “quite relieved.”
“North of the Ungava Bay is polar bear country,” she said. “Even the most experienced hunters can probably get into that situation.
“We need to learn and see how we can try to make more cabins in that area,” she said. “That area is full of country food, and a lot of people go hunting there.”
Climate change has made it difficult to predict wildlife in that region.
“We had a very early spring thaw this year,” Emudluk said. “The wildlife, the fish, the char, everything seem to be a month ahead.
“This means new challenges for a lot of people here.”