Jan. 18—A day after an extremely rare attack by a polar bear in the Northwest Alaska village of Wales on Tuesday, authorities identified the victims as a mother and her young son.
Killed in the mauling were 24-year-old St. Michael resident Summer Myomick and her 1-year-old son, Clyde Ongtowasruk, an Alaska State Troopers spokesman said Wednesday.
The attack happened near the school in the middle of the day Tuesday, according to an update from Department of Public Safety spokesman Austin McDaniel.
Troopers received a report of a polar bear attack around 2:30 p.m., they said in an online report Tuesday. According to initial accounts, a bear came to the village and chased several residents.
A Wales resident shot and killed the bear "as it attacked the pair," troopers said.
Because of poor weather conditions and "the lack of runway lights in Wales," troopers and state Department of Fish and Game personnel had not been able to fly to the village for their investigation, troopers said Wednesday morning.
Fatal polar bear attacks are rare in Alaska. In 1990, a polar bear killed a man in the North Slope village of Point Lay. Biologists later said the animal showed signs of starvation. In 1993, a polar bear burst through a window of an Air Force radar station on the North Slope, seriously mauling a 55-year-old mechanic. He survived.
With the loss of sea ice and the ocean staying open later in the year, polar bears have been spending more time on land, which increases the chance of human encounters, authorities say.
Wales, a predominantly Inupiaq village of fewer than 150 people, is on the far western edge of the Seward Peninsula bordering the Bering Strait, just over 100 miles northwest of Nome. St. Michael, about 200 miles southeast of Wales, is on Norton Sound.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.