He says he's not a hero but Canada's Governor General thinks otherwise.

​On Friday, Bill Ayotte received one of Canada's highest honours for bravery — the Star of Courage.

The 71-year-old man, from Churchill, Manitoba, was honoured in Ottawa for his heroic act in saving a woman from a polar bear attack.

The incident happened Nov. 1, 2013 when the woman, Erin Greene, was walking with friends from a Halloween party in the northern Manitoba town at about 5 a.m.

Erin Greene's torn ear

Part of Erin Greene's left ear was torn in the polar bear attack before Bill Ayotte intervened to save her. She was airlifted from Churchill to a hospital in Winnipeg for stitches and staples. (Submitted by Erin Greene)

The group suddenly saw a bear charging at them and ran. Her friends got away but the bear grabbed Greene, who was visiting from Montreal.

She wrapped her arms around her head to protect herself as the bear thrashed at her, severing three arteries and tearing her scalp and a piece of her left ear. 

Ayotte, who was 69 at the time, was awoken by the noise and sounds of Greene's cries for help. He grabbed a shovel and rushed out of his house and began hitting the bear, distracting it long enough to allow Greene to escape.

But the bear then turned its attention on him. It jumped on Ayotte and began to maul him until neighbours shot at the bear, chasing it away.

"He just ripped my ear off and I said to  myself, 'that son of a bitchen bear has killed me' because he had been at me for a little while," Ayotte said.

"I believe I said to the people 'don't leave me down here and let me die like an animal. Let me die on my feet like a man.'"

While he suffered serious injuries, he has recovered.

Greene was airlifted to a Winnipeg hospital where she received 28 staples, several stitches and some blood transfusions. She, too, has since recovered.

Ayotte, who is the only Canadian who will receive the Star of Courage in 2015, has also been recognized for courage by the Manitoba government.

In 2014, he was awarded the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, which is one of the province's highest honours.