British Columbia

Woman in bear attack likely alive during mauling

Officials say a woman whose fed-upon remains were found near Lillooet, B.C., on Thursday appears to have been alive at some point during a bear attack.

4 bear necropsies completed

Officials say a woman whose fed-upon remains were found near Lillooet, B.C., on Thursday appears to have been alive at some point during a bear attack.

"We can say that obviously the remains were fed upon," said conservation officer Rod Olsen.

"There's 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."

Officials say scat, tracks, bite marks and hair found at the scene indicate a black bear fed upon the woman's remains.

Conservation officers say four bear necropsies have been completed, and they are now awaiting DNA results. (CBC)

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.

He said an autopsy scheduled to take place on Monday will confirm the cause of death. Police believe they know the woman's identity but are awaiting official confirmation through dental records.

Bear likely damaged woman's home

Olsen said the woman, whose name has not been released, had complained to police about bears on her remote, isolated property several weeks before her death.

"There is evidence [a bear] tried to enter her home or cause damage to the outside of her house."

On Sunday morning, conservation officers completed a necropsy on the last of four bears found in the area that have been destroyed.

DNA samples are being sent to the Alberta Fish and Wildlife lab in Edmonton for analysis, Olsen said, and results are expected by the end of the week to confirm whether any of the bears was involved.

"The last bear we caught was [Saturday] evening … and it was caught in the snare closest to where the remains were found, which is a good indication for us that it's obviously a bear that's been utilizing the area and has returned to it," he said.

"That heightens our confidence a bit, but no way can we say that we've got the bear."

Olsen said there are a number of reason bears may have been living on the woman's property.

"Probably because it's just naturally a good bear habitat," he said.

"There's a number of natural berry sources, of food sources, around. You're close to water with a river down below and you've got natural egress routes around for wildlife to use, so if you lived here it would not be uncommon to see bears crossing through your property and your yard repeatedly."

Bears that feed on human remains more dangerous

Olsen said it is important officials identify the bear or bears involved.

"We have to have an abundance of caution that we do get the right bear," he said.

"In this case, it's a high bear population and we're not impacting the population in any way … We wanted to make sure we removed that offending animal and also we have to consider that the other animals could have fed upon her remains as well, so it could be more than one."

He said bears that have fed upon human remains become much more dangerous.

"It's a concern. Obviously they're willing to make contact with people at that point, so they've lost their fear of people…so in order to protect the community we want to make sure they're removed."

However, 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."