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Polar bear plays dead - then attacks hunters

Both escape without serious injury

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Pelly Bay (Oct 14/02) - Elder Gino Akkak discovered last week that polar bears are smarter than we might think.

Akkak and hunting companion Louie Oksokitok were shocked Oct. 1 when the large adult male polar bear they had shot - and thought to be dead - turned on them.

Akkak put four slugs in the bear's belly, back and neck before approaching it. Moving closer, Akkak noticed the bear was not moving, a significant volume of blood had spilled onto the tundra, and it did not appear to be breathing.

But minutes later, as Akkak moved towards his Ski-doo, he heard Oksokitok begin to shout.

"Within a moment I heard him scream for me to shoot the bear. I noticed it had bit Oksokitok by the leg," he said.

Akkak fired one more shot at the bear but then ran out of shells. As he knelt down on one knee to reload, the eight-foot tall beast lunged at him, biting him on his left hand.

"If I was not holding my rifle I think it would have bit right through my hand," he exclaimed.

Oksokitok took a few more shots at the bear before it finally fell to the ground.

Both men escaped without serious injury. The bear's teeth did not break through Oksokitok's clothing. Akkak sustained superficial lacerations to his hand and did not require stitches.

"If Oksokitok was not there or if no one had come with me, I think it would have been hard for me to kill the bear at all," said Akkak.

He believes the stubborn bear did not go down easily because of a large amount of body fat.

In the past, Akkak said he has always been nervous about the possibility of a polar bear attack, but his worries have now subsided.