Tests to show if bear killed native elder
A First Nations community near Lillooet, B.C., is mourning the loss of a well-known elder after her remains were discovered eaten by bears last week.
The woman's remains were found near her home by police dogs on Thursday after she was reported missing.
The woman's name has not yet been released, but Chief Art Adolph of the Xaxli'p First Nation said his community is in shock.
"She was a quiet person involved in community functions. Whenever there were dinners in our community and neighbouring communities she would be there," he said.
"We have never encountered this type of aggressiveness from a bear, so this is out of the ordinary."
Fellow band member Amy Saul said the woman's death has shaken her own sense of safety.
"It totally picked up my fear of bears because I really don't know what to think. It was shocking," said Saul.
Conservation officer Rod Olsen said it appears the woman was alive when attacked by a black bear, but an autopsy to determine the official cause of death is scheduled for Monday.
"There are indications that contact was made with the victim while the victim was alive, but we still can't say at this point the cause of death. That will be up to the coroner and the pathologist to go through and identify that," he said.
Olsen said it is still not clear if the woman was killed by a bear, or whether she may have fallen or been ill in some way that may have killed her or left her vulnerable to a bear attack.
Four bears shot following attack
Conservation officers have killed four black bears in the area that match up with the size and colour of the animal that fed on the woman, Olsen said Sunday.
"The final bear that was caught yesterday fit the description very well and was captured in the snare that was closest to where the remains were found," he said.
Samples from the bears have been sent to Edmonton for DNA testing to determine which bears were involved in the attack.
"We hopefully will get them submitted for testing and have some results hopefully by the end of the week which would be helpful in identifying if we have caught the right animals," Olsen said.
The woman had complained to police about bears on her remote, isolated property several weeks before her death and there is evidence a bear tried to enter her home or damage the outside of her house, he said.
Once bears have a taste for human blood they need to be destroyed for the safety of the community, said Olsen.
"This is a very rare event. We've only had two fatalities since 2000 with black bears in B.C., so it's very unusual," he said.
Olsen said there is no cause for alarm within the community.
"Lillooet is bear country, like a lot of British Columbia. It's still safe. This is a very rare event … common sense works here and there's no reason to be scared."