A polar bear that mauled a mother and her son in Alaska nearly “chased” school staff inside the building, an official said.

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Summer Miomik tied her child to the cold wind blowing from the Bering Sea and came out with a flurry of blowing snow. She walked some 150 yards from the school to visit relatives at the clinic, but the young mother could barely see where she was going or the impending danger.

Miomik, 24, and her son Clyde Ongtowasruk, 1, reached the front of the Kingikmiut School in Wales, Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle, when a bear pole came out of the impenetrable snow and crippled them. Tuesday. It was the first fatal polar bear attack in 30 years in Alaska, the only US state where the animals live.

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Summer Miomik and her son were killed by a polar bear.

GoFundMe

When the attack began, the manager ordered a blockade and closed the curtains so that the children could not see what was happening outside the entrance. Several employees and members of the public left the security guard of the building and tried to scare the bear away with shovels.

The mutilation stopped temporarily, but only when the animal turned on them did they enter. Bering Strait School District Superintendent Susan Nedza said Principal Dawn Hendrickson slammed the door on the charging bear and may have saved a life.

“The polar bear was chasing them and trying to get in,” said Nedza, who received panicked calls about the attack in Unalaklet, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) away. “Just horrible. … Something you never expected.

There are no law enforcement agencies in Wales, so an appeal has been made for help from members of the community as the bear is still out there. An unknown person pulled out a gun, killed the bear and continued to injure Miomik and her son.

Austin McDaniel, a spokesman for Alaska State Troopers, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the mother and child did not seem to know what was going to happen due to low visibility.

According to a post on GoFundMe, a fundraising site set up to help the family “in a time of unexplained grief and sorrow,” close relatives were temporarily staying at the school while they dealt with electrical issues at home.

“We ask that you respect their privacy during this time of great grief,” the statement said.

A memorial service is expected to be held in Wales, followed by a funeral at St Michael’s, the release said.

Wales, a whaling community, is just 50 miles from Russia across the Bering Strait, the westernmost point of the North American continent, and is home to about 150 people, almost all of them Inupiat. It can be reached by plane and boat, including barges that carry household goods. Winter trails provide snowmobile access to other communities and hunting areas.

Kingikmiut School, like other schools in many rural Alaska Native communities, also serves as a community center. The scene in front of him where he was attacked is an endless expanse of frozen snow and ice on the horizon.

Nedza, the school district’s chief administrator, said she received a call from an angry Hendrickson around 2 p.m. Tuesday. He said the students are locked in and safe.

A snowstorm that masked the bear and the lack of runway lights at a gravel airstrip in Wales prevented Alaska state troopers from sending an officer and a Nome state wildlife officer to investigate until Wednesday.

It is not known what caused the attack. However, polar bears view humans as prey, says Jeff York, senior director of conservation at Polar Bear International.

Samples from the bear were taken to the state veterinarian, and the bodies of Miomik and her son were taken to Noma for possible transport to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage.

The school was suspended Wednesday so students could be with their families, and the school district sent counselors to Wales. The school planned a soft opening Thursday and Friday, without classes but allowing students to meet with counselors, eat or play games, Nedza said.

In 2019, scientists from the US Geological Survey in Alaska found that changes in sea ice habitat coincided with evidence of increasing land use by polar bears and an increased chance of encountering polar bears.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, polar bears are the largest bear species. Males typically weigh between 600 and 1,200 pounds, but can reach 1,700 pounds and up to 10 feet in length. Females weigh between 400 and 700 pounds. Polar bears usually feed on seals, but also feed on walruses and belugas.

They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act 2008 and are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Both laws prohibit unauthorized harm to animals unless necessary for human safety.

The last fatal polar bear attack in Alaska was in 1990, the Anchorage Daily News reported, and biologists later said the animal was showing signs of starvation. Three years later, a polar bear mauled a mechanic at an Air Force radar station, but the 55-year-old victim survived, the newspaper reported.

Recently, in 2018, a 31-year-old father was killed by a polar bear while protecting his children in Canada. In the same year, Norwegian authorities A shot and killed a polar bear After attacking and injuring a security guard escorting tourists off a cruise ship in an Arctic archipelago.

A polar bear has died after attacking a cruise ship worker

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Polar bear species are struggling to survive due to the disappearance of Arctic sea ice.

In 2021, Norwegian scientists discovered that polar bears inbreeding because the species is fighting for survival. The study found that the genetic diversity of the polar bear population in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago decreased by 10% from 1995 to 2016.

A 2020 study found that melting sea ice has starved polar bears and starved polar bears for centuries. can be turned offand a decrease in genetic diversity increases the risk of extinction.

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