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Man and woman hurt in attack by polar bear in Churchill

A polar bear attacked a man in Churchill

Gaurawa Kumar/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A man and a woman were in stable condition Friday after a polar bear attack in northern Manitoba.

The attack in Churchill, on the shores of Hudson Bay, came after the 69-year-old man stepped outside his home to investigate a "commotion" on the street about 5 a.m., RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seelm said.

A 30-year-old woman, one of three pedestrians who had been confronted by the bear, was also injured, Seel said.

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"It was right in the town," she said.

"Pedestrians were walking in the town and were surprised by a polar bear. A homeowner heard the commotion and exited his home, at which time he was attacked by the polar bear.

"Another local resident was driving a vehicle and charged it toward the bear and scared the bear off."

The man and woman were both taken to hospital. Police said the man suffered multiple lacerations.

Resident Joe Myles said on his Facebook site that he saw the bears. Myles wrote that he was outside having a cigarette break during his night shift at a hotel when a co-worker yelled about a bear sighting.

"I ran out to see a huge mama bear and her cub scurrying across the street from the back alley. Then we started hearing shots, then screaming and yelling, then more shots."

Myles said another bear came up the alley and "stopped and stared."

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"We creeped back towards the door and had it half open just in case it came at us. Inside, the morning cook was frying bacon, which obviously interested the bear."

When the bruin made a move towards them, they ran inside and shut the door.

Seel said officers from Manitoba Conservation tracked down the attacking bear and shot it. "In the process of that tracking, another bear was shot and killed as well," she said.

It is not the first polar bear attack in Churchill this fall.

In September, a bear chased resident Garett Kolsun, trapped him on the porch of a bakery and swiped at him with his paw.

Kolsun pulled out his cellphone and the light startled the bear, which backed into a flower pot. That distracted the animal enough to give Kolsun a chance to run away.

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Kolsun had only superficial puncture wounds and scratches.

The latest attack came just hours after trick-or-treaters would have been tucked in their beds.

Churchill takes special precautions on Halloween night. Several conservation officers circle the town in a helicopter to see if there are any bears around. Emergency vehicles are set up around the perimeter with their lights flashing to deter any curious creatures from checking out candy bags.

Churchill is near important polar bear summer habitat. The animals come through the area every year about this time when they move from the tundra back to seal-hunting territory – the pack ice that forms every winter over Hudson Bay.

In recent years, their return to their winter hunting ground has been delayed by the increasingly late formation of the sea ice caused by climate change.

By Bob Weber in Edmonton

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