UPDATE: Black bear encounter leads to sudden death

Update 1: The victim has been identified as Catherine Sweatt-Mueller of Maple Plains, Minnesota.

RED PINE ISLAND – RAINY LAKE, ON) – Shortly after 6:30 pm on September 1, 2019 members of the Rainy River District Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were advised of a call for service at Red Pine Island on Rainy Lake.  Officers were advised that the complainant believed her daughter, aged 62 was attacked by a black bear.  The female had gone to check on her dogs and had not returned.

Officers attended the scene and conducted an investigation.  The female was located in close vicinity to a black bear and was evidently deceased based on the observations made by the officers.

The black bear was still in the area and was dispatched by officers.  There were two other black bears at the scene that were a threat to officers during the investigation.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is currently determining the next steps and will seek OPP assistance as required.

The incident took place on a secluded island with no other residence.  There was not a significant risk to public safety and the members of the public on the Island were made aware of the incident.

For more information regarding Bears in Ontario visit the MNRF website at Bear Safety website

One Reply to “UPDATE: Black bear encounter leads to sudden death”

  1. So which is it? Are bears encroaching on what we perceive to be human territory or are we acting like an invasive species by trespassing on their turf? Knowing our natural adversaries in the Great Outdoors in this instance is our first line of defence.

    Like most animals, bears are constantly looking for food and will spend up to eight hours a day foraging. They’re vegetarians for the most part, and feed primarily on berries and nuts. Up to 85% of the American black bear’s diet consists of vegetation. The other 15% has a more pronounced outcome.

    Predation on adult deer is rare, but it has been known to occur. Bears may even hunt prey up to the size of adult female moose, which are considerably larger than themselves by ambushing them. One recorded incident of a male American black bear killing two bull elk over the course of six days by chasing them into deep snow banks, which impeded their movements, is indicative of their ability to stalk their victim.

    In Labrador due to the lack of edible plant life, American black bears have become exceptionally carnivorous, living largely off caribou, usually young, injured, sickly or dead specimens. It is also not uncommon for Black Bears to readily consume eggs and nestlings of various birds and can easily access many tree nests, even those of bald eagles.

    One frightening aspect, American black bears have been reported to steal deer and other animals from human hunters and most certainly the kills of other animals.

    Now hold on! Black Bears on the most part are not ferocious nor are they mean or malicious. They are normally shy, retiring animals that have very little desire to interact with humans. Unless they are forced to be around humans to be near a food source, they usually choose to avoid us.

    But be warned !! Bears like humans and other animals, have a “critical space” which is an area around them that they may defend. Once you have entered a bear’s critical space, you have forced the bear to act – either to run away or be aggressive. The size of the critical space is different for every bear and every situation. A Black Bear’s first line of defence is retreat but Grizzlies, especially sows with cubs, can be very aggressive towards other bears and people they perceive as threats.

    On the other hand Black Bears are very curious and will inspect odours, noises and objects to determine if they are edible or playable. Standing up on their hind legs allows the bear to get more information from its senses of smell, sight and hearing. It is a sign of curiosity not aggression.

    Bears react to new things in their environment. New objects or situations often frighten them. Behaviourists call this “strange object response.” After an initial fright, bears will often investigate what alarmed them. This is not an aggressive act and shouldn’t be regarded as one.

    It is very important to keep in mind that Bears, particularly adult Brown Bears, are not always aware of what is going on around them. A Bear following a trail doesn’t always look ahead. He may be distracted by a yummy food source or may not be able to hear over the loud sounds of rushing water or blowing wind. A bear can literally blunder into an unsuspecting person.

    Also of note, Bears habituate or become accustomed to people just like they do other bears. Because plentiful food resources can be localized, such as salmon in a stream or berries on a mountainside, bears have evolved behaviour that allows them to tolerate each other at close distances. This behaviour is transferred to their relationship with humans. If they are not shot or harassed, bears habituate to people the same way they do to each other.

    When bears are drawn to cabins or campsites or other forms of human habitation, it’s because they’re looking for food. If they find it, they will be back. Bears have an excellent long-term memories, especially when it comes to where they have found food in the past. That is why it is so important for campers to keep their campsite clean and free of scents that attract these critters.

    As I have said many times, be attentive of your surroundings and do not allow yourself to become complacent. Otherwise, the consequences may be too much to “bear”!

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