Black Bear Kills American Woman in Canada in 'Extremely Rare' Attack

"We can't believe a bear attacked a person," Ontario Provincial Police Constable Jim Davis said

Black Bear
Photo: Getty Images

A Minnesota woman staying at a family cabin on a secluded Canadian island was killed in what experts say was a rare attack by a black bear, according to multiple reports.

Catherine Sweatt-Mueller, 62, was staying with her parents on Red Pine Island in Rainy Lake for a family reunion, Ontario Provincial Police told the Star Tribune.

On Sunday, at around 6 p.m. local time, Sweatt-Mueller reportedly left the cabin when she heard her two dogs barking outside. When one of the dogs returned injured and without Sweatt-Mueller, her parents — both in their 80s — called the police, who then searched the surrounding area.

“It took them a while because there’s a lot of underbrush and different trails,” Ontario Provincial Police Constable Jim Davis told the outlet.

According to Davis, they eventually found Sweatt-Mueller with a yearling black bear — aka aged between 1 and 2 years old — standing over her body and shot the animal. Another yearling and a female bear were also reportedly nearby, acting aggressively in the surrounding brush.

Davis told the Associated Press that he did not know what caused the attack and that this was the first report of a bear attacking someone they had this summer.

“The family is, of course, very devastated,” Davis told the outlet. “The officers on the scene were fairly devastated to deliver the news. … We can’t believe a bear attacked a person.”

According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the bear that was shot was taken to the University of Guelph in Ontario where it will have a necropsy to determine if there were any health issues or injuries that could have caused it to attack, both the AP and Star Tribune reported.

“Attacks of this nature are extremely rare and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement to the outlets. The last fatal bear attack in Ontario was reportedly in 2005.

The Ontario Ministry did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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Minnesota wildlife biologist Andy Tri told the AP that an attack from a black bear is “beyond extremely rare” and Dave Garshelis, a bear research scientist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, called them “unaggressive” by nature.

Garshelis said, “If you ever approach a black bear closely, typically they’ll see you and run off.”

The Ontario Ministry is also conducting a search to find the other two bears who were at the scene.

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