A mother and her one-year-old son killed by a polar bear in a remote Alaskan whaling village have been identified.
Summer Myomick, 24, and her baby boy Clyde Ongtowasruk were leaving a school in the Wales coastal community on Tuesday when they were attacked.
The bear, which had already been stalking several residents, was shot dead while mauling the mother and son.
Myomick was also the mother of a three-year-old girl, Avatia, who was cared for by her father, Clyde Sr.
Wales is a remote community at the westernmost tip of North America, approximately 50 miles from Russia. The mother and her son became the first people killed by a polar bear in Alaska since 1990.
Summer Myomick (left), 24, and her one-year-old son were fatally mauled by a polar bear in a remote Alaskan village. She is pictured here with the baby’s father, Clyde Sr. (right).
One-year-old Clyde Ongtowasruk was leaving a local school with his mother when the couple was attacked
According to Alaska State Troopers, the attack happened as Myomick and Ongtowasruk were exiting Kingikmiut School around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 17.
The incident happened right next to the entrance of the school where the bear reportedly tried to enter. A Bering Strait School District official, Susan R. Nedza, told the Anchorage Daily News that students and teachers were crowded inside when the polar bear was spotted.
“The bear tried to come in with them,” Nedza said, but principal Dawn Hendrickson “slammed the door” to keep him out. “It’s terrifying,” she added. “Nothing you’re ever prepared for.”
The school’s teachers pulled shades over the windows before notifying the community that the bear needed treatment. It was then killed, but as of January 18, authorities had not identified who fired the shots.
Wales is home to a predominantly Inupiaq community of around 150 people who organize patrols between July and early November when bears are expected.
The school is only a few hundred meters from the banks of the Bering Strait, which usually freezes over in winter. When this happens, it’s common for polar bears to head out onto the ice to hunt seals and walruses. This week’s attack was therefore unexpected for the time of year.
According to Alaska State Troopers, the attack happened as Myomick and Ongtowasruk were exiting Kingikmiut School around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 17. The walk to the school was pictured two days before the attack
Wales is a remote whaling community on the westernmost tip of North America, approximately 50 miles from Russia
In winter, the Bering Strait freezes over and polar bears are expected to venture out onto the ice where they can hunt seals and walruses. This attack was therefore unexpected for the time of year
Kingikmiut School is situated just a few hundred meters from the Bering Strait coast which freezes over in the winter months. The school is pictured here in summer
Myomick divided her time between the larger city of St Michael and Wales. “It’s very, very sad for Saint Michael and Wales right now,” said Virginia Washington, the city manager of Saint Michael.
“She was a very sweet lady. She was very responsible,” Washington said.
Classes at the school were canceled on Wednesday and counselors were made available to students. For the rest of the week it will only be open to a limited extent.
After being made aware of the attack, the Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game attempted to travel to Wales but were unable to do so due to poor conditions and a lack of runway lights at the airfield north of the village, they said .
Wind speeds of up to 50mph meant visibility was near zero, but later in the day a state police officer arrived to start an investigation but declined to comment until the bear’s remains had been examined.
The bodies of Myomick and Ongtowasruk were transported to the state coroner for an autopsy, police officers said.
The bodies of Myomick (right) and Ongtowasruk (left) were transported to the state coroner for an autopsy, police officers said
Ongtowasruk (pictured) and his mum Myomick split their time between the larger town of St Michael and Wales
When the last fatal attack in Alaska took place in 1990, a starving polar bear killed a man in a village in Point Lay on the North Slope, several hundred miles north of Wales.
Three years later, a polar bear entered the window of a US Air Force radar station, also on the North Slope, seriously injuring a 55-year-old mechanic, who survived.
Even so, violent interactions between polar bears and humans remain rare, Geoff York, senior director of conservation at Polar Bears International, told AP.
“In this case, the bear was chasing multiple people, suggesting it was a desperate bear,” York said.
“Polar bears should be out on the ice and successfully finding natural prey – seals, small walruses and other animals in this region – so it remains to be seen what this particular bear did on land,” he said.
“This was the time of year where I think if I lived in Wales my vigilance would be down,” he added. “As things change, we may need to change our attitude.”