Vancouver Sun

Four bears killed after woman mauled to death

- BY MEDHA

Four black bears have been caught and killed since the mauled body of a woman was found in a remote area outside Lillooet Thursday night.

Conservati­on officer Rod Olsen said officers are hopeful that one of the bears was responsibl­e for the mauling.

DNA samples from the bears have been sent to the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Department in Edmonton and it is hoped that a match for the black bear hair found on the woman’s body will be found.

So far, necropsies conducted on the bears have not revealed any evidence linking them to the victim, “ but this could be owing to the large time gap between the suspected attack and the retrieval of the body,” said Olsen. The woman was last spoken to on Saturday, June 25.

The Stl’atl’imx Tribal Service, a community-based policing body in the area arrived on the scene Thursday evening after receiving a missing person’s report. At the property, they found bloodied clothing strewn down a steep hill beside the house.

The mauled, partly eaten body was found later by the RCMP canine unit at about 6 p. m., 300 to 400 metres from the house.

An official cause of death has not been confirmed, but Olsen said tracks, scratch marks and hair indicated that a black bear was involved in the woman’s death.

The B. C. Conservati­on Officer Service set up snares in the immediate vicinity and continued helicopter monitoring into Friday.

“ I do not think the taking down of the bears was improper,” said Olsen, “ we were focused on the immediate area. The bears were probably feeding on human remains and thus dangerous.”

Olsen also confirmed the woman’s home was in the middle of bear territory. He said there were reports that the woman had previously had problems with a bear trying to enter her house, but the incident was not reported to the Conservati­on Officer Service

Olsen said he didn’t think bears were drawn to the area because of poor bear management practices: “ The area was clean. There was no food or any garbage lying around that could have attracted the bears.”

Olsen said deadly maulings by bears are extremely rare. “ There have only been two fatal incidents involving black bears in B. C. since 2000.”

The last incident took place in 2007 when 31-year-old Robin Kochorek’s body was found with a black bear near it at the Panorama Mountain Resort southwest of Banff. She was reported missing after going mountain biking. The bear was shot on site by the RCMP.

In September of 2002, 31-year-old Christophe­r Bayduza was attacked and killed by a bear when he went for a walk behind a trailer at a remote oil rigging site near Fort Nelson.

The officers are still trying to determine the cause of this particular attack, said Olsen. “ Each bear is individual but normally bears attack people for two reasons: it could be a defensive attack of their young, their food or territory, or it could be a predatory attack.”

A recent study by University of Calgary professor Stephen Herrero suggests that predatory bear attacks are on the rise in North America. The study says lone male black bears hunting people as potential sources of food are a greater cause of deadly maulings than mother bears protecting their young, as widely thought. People can be trained to recognize the behaviour of a bear that is considerin­g them as prey and deter an attack, says the study.

The identity of the woman whose body was found has not been confirmed by either the RCMP or the tribal police.

However, the woman who was reported missing was in her mid-70s and a well-respected Xaxli’p elder.

“ It’s a sad situation that we have here in our community,” said chief Arthur Adolph on behalf of her family. “ We really would like to extend our thanks to all the people that were involved with this [ investigat­ion].”

An autopsy is expected to take place today.

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