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Polar bear kills woman and boy in Alaskan village

January 18, 2023

A woman and a young boy were killed in a polar bear attack in Alaska's Wales.

 A male polar bear walks along the shore of Hudson Bay in Canada
As their sea ice habitat melts as a result of climate change, polar bears are coming on land more often, US scientists have saidImage: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/AP Photo/picture alliance

A polar bear mauled and killed a woman and a boy in a remote western Alaskan village, state troopers said on Tuesday.

While polar bear attacks are rare in Alaska, scientists in the northwestern US state have warned that chances of a polar bear encounter have risen as the bear's sea ice habitat is melting.

What happened?

The incident took place in Wales — located on the western tip of the Seward Peninsula — at 2:30 p.m. local time (2330 UTC), local broadcaster KTUU reported.

"Initial reports indicate that a polar bear had entered the community and had chased multiple residents," state troopers wrote in a dispatch on Tuesday.

"The bear fatally attacked an adult female and juvenile male — it was shot and killed by a local resident as it attacked the pair," the troopers said.

The names of the two people killed have not been released and the troopers are working to inform family members, the dispatch said.

Troopers and the state Department of Fish and Game are planning to travel to Wales  "as weather conditions allow," the dispatch added.

The town where the attack took place is predominantly Inupiaq, with a population of 100.

Concerns over polar bear starvation

Fatal polar bear attacks have been a rarity in Alaska in recent times.

In 1990, a polar bear had killed a man in the village of Point Lay, further north of Wales.

Biologists had said later that the animal showed signs of starvation, according to an Anchorage Daily News report.

In 2019, scientists with the US Geological Survey found that drastic changes to the polar bear's sea ice habitat have prompted the animal to come on land more often.

As polar bears search for food on land to stave off starvation, the chance of encounters between the world's largest bears and humans has also increased.

dvv/ar (AP, dpa)

Alaska: Climate change in the Arctic