Yukon trapper Gjermund Roesholt was returning home after checking his line, a series of traps to capture game, when he was faced with a charging grizzly bear just 100 meters (330 feet) from the cabin he shared with his wife and daughter. An experienced wilderness guide, he managed to shoot and kill the attacking animal – but the terror didn’t end there.
According to the Yukon Coroner’s Service, Roesholt found the bodies of his wife, Valérie Théorêt, and their 10-month-old baby, Adele, just outside of the cabin they had been living in over the last three months.
“It appears they had been out for a walk when the incident occurred, sometime between 10 am and 3 pm on November 26,” reads the report.
Though extremely rare – reports vary from an average of 1 person a year killed by bears in the US, to 2-4 people – it appears to be on the rise. This fatal attack is one of many that have occurred in recent years.
Over the last two decades, there have been dozens of fatal bear attacks across North America. Just last month, an 18-year-old Oklahoma man died after being mauled by a mother and possibly two cubs. In September, an experienced hunting guide was killed in Wyoming when he and his client were field-dressing an elk the two had shot, and in June a brown bear killed a 44-year-old man who was texting while hiking in Eagle River, Alaska. In 2016, two black bear attacks occurred in Alaska within just two days of each other – only six had previously been reported in the last 130 years, reports National Geographic.
Once nearing extinction, bear populations across North America have managed to steadily increase as a result of decades-long restrictions on hunting. However, as city limits continue to sprawl and encroach into historically wild places, people can expect to continue seeing an uptick in human-wildlife interactions, some of which can be fatal.
“Human persecution and habitat loss have endangered large carnivore populations worldwide, but some are recovering, exacerbating old conflicts,” wrote a study earlier this year examining brown bear attacks in Scandinavia over the last 40 years.
Although protective mother bears are notoriously credited with being overly aggressive, a 2011 study of fatal black bear attacks in North America found predatory male bears are responsible for most historical attacks. These typically occur when bears – and people – are most active outdoors during the spring and fall months.
How a person responds to an attacking bear could spell the difference between life and death. If a black bear attacks, the US National Park Services says to “FIGHT BACK WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE!” by directly punching the animal in the face and using rocks and sticks for weapons. If a grizzly or brown bear attack, on the other hand, play dead – fighting back will only worsen the attack. However, if the fight persists then fight back.