Woman dead after bear attack in northern Sask.

Buffalo Narrows RCMP say a 44-year-old woman is dead after a bear attack near McKie Lake on Thursday evening.

Woman, 44, was attacked by black bear in first fatal bear encounter since 1983

A 44-year-old woman is dead after a fatal bear attack in northern Saskatchewan on Thursday evening. It is the first death from a bear recorded in the province since 1983. (Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

A 44-year-old woman is dead after she was attacked by a black bear near McKie Lake in northern Saskatchewan on Thursday evening.

Buffalo Narrows RCMP and the provincial Ministry of Environment say the woman was camping with family members — a man and two children under the age of 10 — about 150 kilometres northeast of Buffalo Narrows when the attack happened around 7 p.m. CST.

The woman was flown with "significant injuries" to Buffalo Narrows where she was pronounced dead, an RCMP release said. Buffalo Narrows is 433 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

"We're very surprised by this. I mean bears don't usually do this. They don't usually have this type of behaviour," said Greg Johnson, an inspector with the Ministry of Environment conservation officer services. 

"You know to have an unprovoked attack like this is very, very rare in most cases," Johnson continued.

The RCMP's initial investigation found the death — the first fatal bear attack in Saskatchewan since 1983 — was not suspicious. Now, the Ministry of Environment will be conducting its own investigation into the death.

Bear was destroyed

The RCMP say the bear was destroyed at the scene. An RCMP spokesperson declined to comment further, as they were no longer part of the investigation.

"I think probably what's going on now with the cooler weather this spring is the berry crop is late. So these bears, you know, they're trying to fatten up for the winter right now and that's their main source of food," Johnson said Friday. 

According to Johnson, the bear was killed before responders arrived on scene. Conservation officers are on the scene and will investigate the attack.

The bear's carcass will be taken in for a necropsy to determine if it was sick or suffering from an ailment at the time of the attack.

Conservation officers have had a busy year in 2020, Johnson said.

There have been 1,070 reports to conservation officers about bears since the beginning of April, he added. Most of them are related to improper storage of food and garbage, or encounters with people.

The RCMP and the Ministry of Environment extended their condolences to the family of the woman who died.