CHURCHILL, Man. - Mitch Paddock was at a friend's house in the town that's known as the polar bear capital of the world when he heard the screams of a woman who had just left the gathering.
He ran outside in his sock feet and saw his retired neighbour, who he and others in the area have identified as Bill Ayotte, on the ground in front of his house being mauled by one of the huge white creatures.
"I didn't know it was my neighbour at the time. It was just a guy on the ground," Paddock said Saturday from Churchill, Man.
"He was on his back, the bear was right on top of him with both paws," he said of the incident early Friday.
It turned out Ayotte had run out of his house to help the woman, Paddock said, adding the man grabbed a shovel and hit the animal, distracting it and giving the woman time to flee to his home and shut the door.
But then Ayotte was the one in serious trouble.
"It was dragging him around," Paddock said. "It was pouncing on him. That's what polar bears do. They take both their paws and they kind of smash. He was kind of jumping on Bill's chest."
"I ran down the street in my socks to get my gun."
Paddock said he raced into his house and up the stairs to grab a shotgun that fires cracker shells, which are designed to scare wildlife by shooting fire crackers. He said many people in Churchill have them.
He ran back to the scene and began firing, but the bear remained on top of his neighbour, undeterred.
Paddock said other neighbours came out, trying frantically to scare the bear off.
"Another neighbour, one of the guys who lives beside Bill, was throwing shoes and yelling at the bear," he said.
"One of my neighbours was standing on the deck in his underwear, shooting at him, too.
"Eventually I hit him in the side with one of these cracker shells, and when it went off, it was at his feet and he ran away."
But the bear only ran a few metres before turning back to his prey and resuming the attack. At that point, Paddock said the neighbour who was also shooting at the bear jumped into his pickup truck and drove up to the animal while honking the horn.
That eventually drove the bear away, he said, and everyone ran outside to help Ayotte.
Doug Webber, who lives right next door, said Ayotte was in rough shape. One neighbour brought out a blanket while others got him to his feet and rode with him in the bed of the pickup to the community's hospital.
"He was on his feet with three people helping him," Webber said. "There was a lot of blood around his head."
He said he also saw the woman, who'd taken refuge in Ayotte's house, covered in blood.
Police said 69-year-old Ayotte suffered multiple lacerations and was taken to hospital in stable condition. The woman, who police said was 30, was in the same condition. Her name has not been disclosed.
Manitoba Conservation officials said they fatally shot two bears.
Spokesman Glen Cassie said it's not normal practice to automatically shoot bears within the town, but that's what this situation required.
A cub, however, was tranquilized and taken to a holding facility.
In September, a polar bear in Churchill chased resident Garett Kolsun, trapped him on the porch of a bakery and swiped at him with a paw.
Kolsun pulled out his cellphone and the light startled the bear, which backed into a flower pot. That distracted the animal enough to give Kolsun a chance to run away.
Webber said two attacks in such a short time have left people a "little on the frightened side."
"There's only been a handful in the last 50 years I've been here," Webber said.
"We tend to get fairly blase about polar bears until something like this happens."
Related on HuffPost:
Kamchatka bear twins named Cuba and Toby, with their mother Kamcatka play in the outdoor enclosure at Brno Zoo for the first time on May 31, 2012. The Kamchatka bear is the largest subspecies of brown bear, weighing up to 1000 kg. RADEK MICA/AFP/GettyImages
Kamchatka bear Kamcatka, mother of twin bear cubs, plays in the outdoor enclosure at Brno Zoo for the first time on May 31, 2012. The Kamchatka bear is the largest subspecies of brown bear, weighing up to 1000 kg. RADEK MICA/AFP/GettyImages
Polar bear Anori lays in the sun on May 30, 2012 at the zoo in Wuppertal, western Germany. Anori was born January 4, 2012 at the zoo in Wuppertal and is a half-sister of world famous polar bear Knut, who died in 2011. FEDERICO GAMBARINI/AFP/GettyImages
A black bear is seen in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/GettyImages
Two Giant Pandas at an enclosure before they are taken back to the wild, at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wolong, southwest China's Sichaun province on May 3, 2012. The bears will be left to fend for themselves to learn crucial survival skills, and scientists plan to gradually reduce human interactions until they can live in the wild without any assistance, and while there have already been 10 attempts at setting pandas free over the past 30 years, and only two are thought to have been successful as the bears find it very hard to survive on their own. STR/AFP/GettyImages
A mother polar bear plays with one of her three cubs born in last November, at the Moscow Zoo, on March 22, 2012. ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images
KINGUSSIE, SCOTLAND - APRIL 09: Walker (L) the polar bear meets with new male companion Arktos at the Highland Wildlife Park on April 9, 2012 in Kingussie, Scotland. Arktos arrived from Hannover Zoo in Germany on April 4 to be a companion to the Park's resident polar bear Walker. A year older than Walker and slightly larger, Arktos is four-years-old and it's hoped that the bears will establish a relationship of friendly competitiveness. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
QUANZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 24: (CHINA OUT) Bears stand by a wall at a bear farm of Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Co Ltd on February 24, 2012 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province of China. The Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, which makes medicine using bile extracted from live bears, opened one of its bear farms to the media on Wednesday, to quell growing criticism. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A bear is seen at one of the traditional Chinese medicine company Guizhentang's controversial bear bile farms in Hui'an, southeast China's Fujian province on February 22, 2012. Bear bile has long been used in China to treat various health problems, despite skepticism over its effectiveness and outrage over the bile extraction process, which animal rights group say is excruciatingly painful for bears. STR/AFP/Getty Images
This photo taken on January 17, 2012 shows a zoo keeper attending to a new-born polar bear cub at the Ocean Aquarium of Penglai, in Yantai, in east China's Shandong province. This female cub was delivered by five-year-old polar bear 'Pengpeng' on January 1 weighing 640 grams, as the first polar bear born in the aquarium. STR/AFP/Getty Images
A spectacled bear (tremarctos ornatus), born in captivity four months ago, is seen at the zoo in Cali, Valle del Cauca department, Colombia, on January 11, 2012. LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images
A pair of Brown bears play fight December 21, 2011 at the Bronx Zoo in New York. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
KINGUSSIE, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 07: Walker the polar bear plays with a hard hat on his third birthday at the Highland Wildlife Park on December 7, 2011 in Kingussie, Scotland. Walker was born in Rhenen Zoo in Holland on 7th December 2008. He came to live at the Highland Wildlife Park after his aunt, Freedom, became pregnant and needed to retire to her cubbing den, his mother was also due to come on heat and be reintroduced back to the Zoo's adult male, Walker's dad. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 16: Tian Tian the female panda bear looks out from her enclosure as members of the public view her for the first time at Edinburgh Zoo on December 16, 2011 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The eight-year-old pair of giant pandas arrived on a specially chartered flight from China over a week ago and are the first to live in the UK for 17 years. Edinburgh zoo are hopeful that the pandas will give birth to cubs during their 10 year stay in Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Polar bears play in the water of Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, Netherlands on September 30, 2011. The weather forecast for the weekend to come promises plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 25 degrees. ROBERT VOS/AFP/Getty Images
KEENESBURG, CO - OCTOBER 20: A grizzly bear waits to be fed at The Wild Animal Sanctuary on October 20, 2011 in Keenesburg, Colorado. The non-profit sanctuary is a 720-acre refuge for large carnivores that have been confiscated from illegal or abusive situations and is currently home to over 290 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other large carnivores. It is the oldest and largest carnivore sanctuary in the United States, having been in operation since 1980. On Tuesday the owner of a Zanesville, Ohio private animal reserve set loose 56 animals, of which 49 were hunted down and killed by law enforcement and six others were tranquilized and are being treated at the Columbus Zoo. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A bear is seen in the Kuwait Zoo in the heart of the capital on September 4, 2011. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images
Polar bear shakes off water in his enclosure at the zoo on July 26, 2011 in Prague. MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images)
A brown bear rests at the Safari park in Fasano, in the Apulia region, on August 4, 2011. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images
A three month old bear cub who was born at the zoo in Stavropol takes a walk on May 5, 2011. DANIL SEMYONOV/AFP/Getty Images
Newborn Polar Bear Cubs
Newborn Polar Bear Cubs. A set of newborn polar bear twins make their public debut.
Anuri The Baby Polar Bear
Meet Germany's latest animal superstar - Anuri the polar bear.