Coral Harbour woman distracts attacking polar bear by throwing mittens

Natuk Paniyuk, 67, and her 71-year-husband came across a polar bear last week while heading out to get water.

'It was so close I could see the teeth,' says Natuk Paniyuk

Polar bears attempt to get at meat wrapped in steel mesh at a 'diversionary feeding station' near Arviat, Nunavut. Wildlife officers in the Nunavut community were trying out the technique to help keep polar bears out of the community during freeze-up. (James Tagalik)

Quick thinking and a pair of mittens saved an elderly couple from a polar bear attack near Coral Harbour, Nunavut, last week.

Natuk Paniyuk, 67, says she and her 71-year old husband Mark Paniyuk went to a lake to get water. When she first saw the polar bear she says she couldn't believe her eyes.

"I looked again and there it was standing, growling, with its mouth wide open," she said in Inuktitut.

"I yelled and it was so close I could see the teeth."

Paniyuk says the bear came right at her but she managed to run to her husband nearby. He took out a small pocket knife to try to defend them but every time he tried to stab the bear, it moved out of the way.

Finally Paniyuk says she threw her mitts past the bear as a diversion, and the animal chased after them.

The couple then threw rocks at the bear and managed to run to their truck.

They scared the bear away by shooting at it with their shotgun and it ran off.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?