Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Woman released following polar bear attack

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A woman who was attacked by a polar bear in Churchill early Friday morning was released from hospital over the weekend after receiving treatment in Winnipeg.

The woman, 30, identified as Erin by a friend, suffered injuries to the back of her head, her ear and her arm when the bear cornered her against a home around 5:15 a.m.

Things could have been much worse for the Montreal native, who works as a waitress in Churchill, had it not been for Bill Ayotte, 69. He rushed out of his house when he heard screams, grabbed a shovel and began hitting the male bear, distracting it and giving Erin time to run into his home and shut the door.

The animal then turned on the retired tour guide and lifelong resident of the northern Manitoba community. He was badly mauled and was also flown by air ambulance to Winnipeg.

He's listed in stable condition at Health Science Centre, said a spokeswoman with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Ayotte has declined a request for an interview.

A neighbour of Ayotte, Mitch Paddock, told The Canadian Press he also heard screams early Friday morning, ran outside in his socks and saw Ayotte on the ground being mauled by the bear.

"It was dragging him around," Paddock said. "It was pouncing on him. That's what polar bears do. They take both their paws and they kind of smash. He was kind of jumping on Bill's chest."

Paddock said he raced into his house and up the stairs to grab a shotgun that fires cracker shells, which are designed to scare wildlife. He said many people in Churchill have them.

He ran back to the scene and began firing, but the bear remained on top of his neighbour. Paddock said other neighbours arrived, trying frantically to scare the bear off.

Didier Foubert-Allen, a neighbour who was also shooting at the bear, jumped into his pickup truck and drove up to the animal while honking the horn. That tactic eventually drove the bear away.

Natural resources officers got to the scene of the attack within minutes of receiving word it was happening.

Officers shot and injured one bear, and, while tracking it through town, another bear near the scene of the attack, was shot and killed. A bear cub was found near the scene and safely transferred to the town’s polar bear holding facility, the spokesman said.

Conservation officers then found the carcass of the first bear that was shot -- believed to be the animal that attacked the woman and man.

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 4, 2013 A5

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