Fact Check

Polar Bear Attack

Photographs show the aftermath of a campsite attack by a polar bear?

Published July 30, 2006


Claim:   Photographs show the aftermath of a campsite attack by a polar bear.

Status:   Multiple — see below.

Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

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!

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Origins:   The photographs reproduced above appear (with the exception of the last one) to correspond to the aftermath of a polar bear attack on a campsite in the Canadian territory of Nunavut that took place on 2 September 2003. An Inuit guide named Kootoo Shaw, who was accompanying three U.S. hunters, suffered multiple bites and slashes to his back and feet, two broken ribs, and lacerations of his scalp that required 300 staples to close.

The Northern News Services covering Canada's territories described the attack:

Shaw was guiding a group of American hunters 45 minutes outside of Kimmirut when he was mauled by the bear.

"We didn't know there was a polar bear in the area," he said. "He just suddenly appeared in our camp."

Shaw said the bear first approached the tent the Americans were camping in and tore through it.

It then headed for the tent Shaw was staying in.

"He started ripping through and we managed to get out through the door," Shaw said.

The hunting guide started to run and was chased by the bear, which was about seven feet tall. Shaw then tripped on a rock and the bear pounced on him.

"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."

One of the Americans was able to shoot the bear and kill it before it was able to do any more damage to Shaw.

The dimensions of the last photograph (the one that shows a severe ankle injury) are different from the others, and several readers have indicated they've seen that picture previously (and separately) circulated with text identifying it as the result of a shotgun blast or other gun-related injury.

Last updated:   2 August 2006

Sources Sources:

    Christensen, Neils.   "Man Survives Polar Bear Attack."

    Northern News Services. 3 September 2003.

    Christensen, Neils.   "Polar Bear Survivor Passes on His Story."

    Northern News Services. 4 May 2004.

    CBC News.   "Guns Not at Ready Before Bear Attack."

    5 September 2003.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.