Update Jan. 19, 2023: The victims of the fatal polar bear mauling in the tiny village of Wales, Alaska have been identified by authorities as Summer Myomick of Saint Michael and her 1-year-old son, Clyde Ongtowasruk.
In a rare and tragic animal attack, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, a polar bear killed a woman and a young boy after terrorizing the tiny Alaskan village of Wales, 100 miles northwest of Nome. A local resident shot and killed the bear while it was attacking the pair.
According to an Alaska State Trooper dispatch, authorities received a report of the polar bear attack at 2:30 p.m., followed by further reports. They indicated the bear chased multiple residents within the community before fatally injuring a currently unidentified woman and child.
The names of two victims will be released after authorities notify family members.
State police and officials from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are trying to make their way to the attack site, but in typical Alaskan fashion, the weather has yet to cooperate.
“Over the past few decades, it’s been very, very rare for those types of attacks to occur,” Jessup McDermott, Alaska Nannut Co-Management Council executive director, told Anchorage Daily News. “It’s incredibly tragic it happened.”
“While rare instances like a bear showing up in Noatak have occurred in recent years, the presence of bears around communities like Wales is a normal and regular occurrence,” McDermott said.
Polar bears are massive animals. According to the state fish and game department, the largest males can weigh more than 1,700 pounds and stand nearly 10 feet tall. Polar bears have no known natural predators.
Scientists say the loss of sea ice has robbed polar bears of the platforms they have traditionally used for hunting seals, a prominent component of their diet. Hungry bears will wander farther inland, where they are more likely to come in contact with people.
Polar bear attacks on humans are relatively rare, with only 73 documented cases from 1870–2014. Those attacks were spread across polar bear ranges in the U.S., Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia.
The most recent polar bear attack in the U.S. occurred in 1990 in Point Lay, Alaska, a town approximately 315 miles north of Wales. Carl Stalker, 28, was attacked by the bear while walking with his girlfriend. The bear was later shot near the man’s partially eaten corpse in the middle of town. Tests run on the bear after the incident indicated the animal was starving. The bear’s stomach contained only human remains.