POLITICS

Manitoba honours man who saved woman attacked by polar bear in Churchill

10/03/2014 05:13 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - A man who was himself mauled when he saved a woman attacked by a polar bear has received one of Manitoba's highest honours.

Bill Ayotte has been awarded the Order of the Buffalo Hunt in recognition of his actions in Churchill last Nov. 1.

Ayotte, who is 69 and retired, ran out armed only with a shovel when he heard the screams of Erin Greene of Montreal, who was attacked while she was walking home after a Halloween party.

He distracted the animal so she could get away, but the bear turned on him.

One of Ayotte's neighbours who came out to help said the bear was pouncing on Ayotte and dragging him around.

The bear finally fled when someone took a run at it with a pickup truck.

Conservation officers later shot and killed two bears.

"The people of Churchill have learned to live with and respect polar bears, but when he saw a young woman being attacked by a bear, Bill Ayotte reacted without hesitation and those actions saved her life," Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh said in a release Friday. "He risked his own life to save a neighbour and that courage should be recognized and rewarded.

"This quick-thinking, selfless action saved Erin Greene's life, while putting his own life in grave danger."

Gift presentations were also made to Greene, the seven-member polar bear alert team and Churchill resident Didier Foubert-Allen, who helped with the rescue effort.

Manitoba's Order of the Buffalo Hunt was established in 1957. The honour is bestowed to individuals who demonstrate outstanding skills in the areas of leadership, service and community commitment.