Two injured Inuit hunters have told how they guarded their friend’s body for three days while four polar bears circled their camp.
The party from Naujaat, Nunavut, an Inuit hamlet located on the Arctic Circle, were on a hunting expedition when one was killed in an attack involving a mother and her cub.
One of the survivors, Leo Ijjangiaq, said the accident occurred when a mother bear and her cub approached their camp.
The 38-year-old said he and the two other hunters, Laurent Junior Uttak and Darryl Kaunak, were hunting for caribou and narwhal when they noticed the animals.
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Mr Ijjangiaq said he shot his rifle in the air to scare the polar bear away, but it chased Mr Kaunak and mauled him to death.
Mr Ijjangiaq and Mr Uttak also suffered minor injuries before they were as able to shoot and kill the mother and her cub.
In the days that followed, as the hunters huddled with their friend’s body waiting to be rescued, several other bears circled their camp.
"More bears approached us," Mr Ijjangiaq told Canada’s CBC News. "I told my friend that I will take all criminal responsibility for every bear that we kill."
Several other bears were killed in the days following the attack after they were drawn to the location by the scent of blood. The exact number is unclear.
The men had left Naujaat, a community of around 1,000 people on the shores of Hudson Bay, by boat two days earlier.
A search and rescue team were scrambled when the men failed to return as expected on August 21 from their hunting trip.
The two survivors, who had stayed awake for three days, were found off the shore of Lyon Inlet, about 60 miles east of Naujaat.
They had been blocked in by sea ice that was making it dangerous to navigate out to open water and leave the area. They also had mechanical issues with their boat.
It is the second fatal polar bear attack in Canada’s northernmost territory this summer and has prompted fresh questions over how to handle the bears.
In July, Aaron Gibbons died protecting his children in a rare polar bear attack in Nunavut.
The 31-year-old was on Sentry Island, a popular fishing and hunting spot on the west coast of Hudson Bay, when he encountered the bear.
Since the two deaths, Innuit communities have complained that restrictions on hunting polar bears have led to higher populations and more frequent incursions into their communities.
Some local polar bear biologists have blamed climate change for destroying the bears’ sea ice habitats and forcing them to travel further inland – within reach of humans.