US & Canada

Woman killed in 'extremely rare' black bear attack in Canada

A black bear pictured in California Image copyright AFP
Image caption Black bears are dangerous but attacks are rare

A US woman has been killed in a rare black bear attack on a secluded private island in Canada.

Catherine Sweatt-Mueller, 62, left her cabin in the evening to check on her dogs but failed to return.

Her concerned mother rang police but when they got to the island they found a bear standing over Sweatt-Mueller's body.

Police shot dead the bear they believe was responsible.

Sweatt-Mueller, of Maple Plain, Minnesota, was on holiday earlier this month with her parents at Red Pine Island on Rainy Lake, near the US border.

Her mother was worried when the dogs returned to the family's cabin without her daughter, one of which was injured.

Two other black bears spotted nearby were also acting aggressively, Jim Davis of Ontario police told the BBC.

"One was snapping its gums, gritting its teeth, stomping," he said.

The bear's body is being examined to see if officials can determine a cause for the attack. Conservation officers are currently searching the area to locate the two other animals.

Mr Davis called the attack a "unique incident" and something he has not seen in 11 years policing the region.

"Attacks of this nature are extremely rare," the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim."

The last fatal bear attack in Ontario was in 2005, according to the Associated Press.

Bears prefer to avoid humans but they can attack for a number of reasons, like a when person encounters a mother with her cubs, if a bear is defending its food, or when one is surprised or startled.

In November 2018, Valerie Theoret, 37, and her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt, were both killed in the Yukon by a starving and injured grizzly bear.

In 2018, there were deadly attacks linked to grizzly bears in North America, including two in Alaska and a third in Wyoming, near Yellowstone National Park.

Last year, a Canadian man, Aaron Gibbons, 31, was killed by a polar bear while at a popular fishing and hunting spot in northernmost territory of Nunavut.

Prior to that, the last death from a polar bear attack in Nunavut was in 2000.

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