MINNESOTA, EU: – A black bear killed a Minnesota woman on an isolated island in Canadian waters in an attack that experts consider extremely rare.
Catherine Sweatt-Mueller, 62, of Maple Plain, was staying with her parents in a remote cabin on Red Pine Island in Rainy Lake when she was killed, the Ontario Provincial Police said.
Police officer Jim Davis says Sweatt-Mueller left Sunday night when he heard his two dogs bark, but he never returned, the Star Tribune reported.
The dogs, one of them wounded, returned to the cabin. His 80-year-old parents were also on the island and his mother called the police, Davis said. Officers found a bear standing over Sweatt-Mueller’s body and shot the animal.
Davis told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he couldn’t tell what caused the attack. While authorities generally handle complaints about bears rooted in trash from summer through fall, he said there have been no reports of bears attacking people.
“The family is, of course, very devastated,” Davis said. “The officers at the scene were pretty devastated to break the news. … We can’t believe a bear attacked a person.”
The bear is being sent to the University of Guelph for testing, and a necropsy, an animal autopsy, will be performed to help determine if there was any physical reason for the bear’s abnormal behavior, Maimoona Dinani, an officer of relations with Ontario Ministry of The Media. Natural Resources and Forestry, he said in a statement. No one witnessed the attack, Dinani said.
“Attacks of this nature are extremely rare and our hearts are with the victim’s family and friends,” Dinani said. The last deadly bear attack in Ontario was in 2005.
Minnesota wildlife biologist Andy Tri says a predatory attack by a black bear is “more than extremely rare.”
On average, a deadly black bear attack occurs about once a year across North America, said Dave Garshelis, a bear research scientist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Fatal attacks on the most aggressive brown bear, which has a narrower range than the black bear, occur approximately twice a year in North America, Garshelis said.
Black bears tend to be shy with people, Garshelis said. “They’re very aggressive bears,” he said. “If you ever approach a black bear up close, they’ll usually see you and run away.”
But bears can become aggressive with dogs and can attack after a dog that was walked by its owner, Garshelis said. The dog returns to its owner with the bear chasing him, he said.
Red Pine Island is located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of International Falls, Minnesota. Davis said the island is owned by the Sweatt-Mueller family, who are the only occupants, and that it can only be reached by boat, within a 20-minute to half-hour ride.