Photos of a Polar Bear Attack

Survivor of Polar Bear Attack Tells All

Close-up of a Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) looking fierce with its mouth open and snow on its nose on the coast of Hudson Bay near the Seal River estuary (north of Churchill), Manitoba, Canada
Ron Erwin / Getty Images

Emailed photos circulating since June 2006 graphically document injuries sustained by the survivor of a polar bear attack in the Yukon. This story is apparently authentic and the accompanying text is party true.

Details of the Polar Bear Attack

The victim of the mauling in September 2003 was an Inuit hunting guide by the name of Kootoo Shaw. He was guiding a group of American caribou hunters in the Canadian territory of Nunavut and they were encamped when the attack occurred. As the hunters recounted it, the bear, which was about seven feet tall, rolled into camp and took an idle swat at their tent first. It then headed for Shaw's, ripping it open and proceeding to jump up and down on him, pulling him outside and clawing at his back and tearing at his scalp. The hunting guide started to run and was chased by the bear; he tripped on a rock and the bear pounced on him. Shaw was wearing nothing but long johns and a T-shirt.

"I could feel his heavy breathing and feel his teeth on the back of my neck," he later told a reporter for the Northern News Service which covers Canada's territories. "His claws started digging into my skin and he was biting my head," he said. "He jumped up and down on me four times breaking my ribs. I thought he was going to bite my neck." The hunters shot and killed the bear before it could inflict a fatal wound.

Shaw was quickly transported to the nearest hospital, where it took 300 stitches to reattach his scalp, according to CBC News. He was also treated for multiple bites and slashes on his back, arms and feet.

The unflappable Shaw has spent the last decade recovering physically and psychologically from the incident, but said he had every intention of going back to work as a guide. Kootoo now travels to communities all over Nunavut, shares his harrowing story and offers advice to people on how to survive a bear attack. "One tough camper" indeed.

Sample Email Detailing the Bear Attack

Here's an email example about the attack contributed by Dave M. on July 4, 2006.

FW: One tough camper!
Polar Bear Attack in the High Arctic
This is from up in the Yukon; this chap is lucky to be alive. The guy survived the bear attack. The bear jumped on him while he was sleeping in his tent and he managed to get it off of him and shoot it.
One tough camper.
The preceding images (the majority of them, anyway) do appear to document an actual polar bear attack described in harrowing detail in published accounts dating from September 2003.
Contrary to what is claimed in the viral email, however, the attack took place near the Arctic village of Kimmirut in Nunavut, the northernmost territory of Canada, not in the Yukon Territory or Alaska.

WARNING: Graphic images of medical injuries follow.

Sources and Further Reading​


"I Thought I Was Going to Die"
CBC News, September 4. 2003

Guns Not at Ready Before Bear Attack
CBC News, September 5, 2003

Polar Bear Survivor Passes on His Story
Northern News Services, May 10, 2004

Polar Bear Attack Legend - The True Story
Bear Hunting Magazine, August 15, 2006


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