What would you do if you saw your neighbor getting mauled by a polar bear? For a Canadian man who received the Star of Courage – the second highest honor for bravery in Canada – his reaction was to hit the bear over the head with a shovel.

William Ayotte, a 71-year-old man from Churchill, Manitoba, told Winnepeg News Station CTV about how he came to the rescue of the woman living next door in November 2013. But striking the polar bear just made him turn its attention toward Ayotte.

“I was watching TV in my house and I could hear screaming and I said to myself, ‘That’s not on my TV.’ So I went to my front door and opened the door and I looked outside and about 40 feet away was a bear mauling a woman,” he told the station.

“The bear had the woman by the head and was wagging her around in the air and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he said. “I had just had to do something”

When the man hit the bear over the head with a shovel it drew him off her but now onto him. Neighbors tried to distract the bear by shooting guns until someone spooked it off with a truck.

Ayotte received the Star of Courage during a ceremony recently in Ottawa. The incident occurred in November 2013 but now that it’s spring time, incidents like these are happening more often. Recent bear attacks across the country have prompted wildlife officials to take action, closing access to trails or tracking down and euthanizing problem bears in some areas.  

Whenever travelling in bear country, be sure to take extra precaution to bear-proof your campsite. And if you are into serious protection, check out the “back attack pack.”

© Maikelvanderheijden | Dreamstime.comPolar Bear Photo