Foxe Basin polar bear attack leaves three people seriously mauled, airlifted to hospital

The attack happened yesterday afternoon (10 August) about 2:30 PM local time near the community of Sanirajak (listed as Hall Beach on ice charts), which is in Foxe Basin, Nunavut (population about 800). There are few details yet on the human victims of the mauling other than that they were two women and a man. All three were badly injured. They are now in hospital and expected to survive.

It appears the bear died as a consequence of the attack but there has been no mention of its condition, age, etc., or the circumstances of the attack. There is no ethical reason for blaming this broad-daylight attack on lack of sea ice (although some will try), since there is abundant ice in the region at the moment, as the charts below show. Expect an update as the story unfolds.

Sanirajak (labelled ‘Hall Beach’ on Google maps) at the marker.

From Nunatsiaq Online this afternoon (11 August):

“Nunavut police say a man and two women are victims of a polar-bear attack just outside of Sanirajak.

RCMP officers in the community received reports of the attack around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday just south of the Baffin community near the former Distant Early Warning line, where some cabins are located.

Police said while en route to the site, a motorist told them the trio had already been taken to the community’s health centre.

The man was medevaced to Ottawa for treatment [2,614 km away], while the women were sent to hospital in Iqaluit [794 km].

“Although badly injured, they are expected to recover from their injuries,” states a news release the RCMP.

A polar bear was found dead by some cabins in the area. It has since been picked up by a local wildlife officer and transported to the local wildlife office. Police did not indicate how the bear died.”

The CBC ran a less-detailed story.

Sea ice conditions

From the Canadian Ice Service for the day of the attack (10 August), the chart below shows the abundance of ice remaining in Foxe Basin:

Also from the Canadian Ice Service, the chart below is for the week of 9 August 2021 and shows Hall Beach: all that dark green is thick first year ice (>1.2 m thick) and the brown is multi-year ice that did not melt last year:

As he so often does, polar bear specialist Andrew Dercocher chimed in to imply (see below) that this attack should be considered an expected outcome of human-caused global warming. He said attacks “may be increasing” even though he provides no data to support such a statement: that’s because there is none. Certainly in this specific case, the time Foxe Basin bears have been on land this summer is not an issue since there is currently more ice than open water in the region.

If the bear was in poor condition (it’s possible it was), that fact cannot be blamed on lack of ice or a long time ‘forced’ onto land due to receding sea ice that happens every summer.

Recall the fatal attack three years ago in the same region from 28 Aug 2018; the follow post is here [spoiler alert: victims waited for days to be rescued because they were trapped on shore by thick ice that even an ice breaker could not get through; the polar bears involved were all in good condition (not starving)].

Also from 2018, another fatal attack near Arviat (a bit to the south of Foxe Basin) from July 2018.

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