Here is the tragic story without embellishments:
A black bear killed a Minnesota woman on a secluded island in Canadian waters.
When the woman heard the dogs barking at dusk she went outdoors after them and never returned.
Both dogs returned to the cabin; one of them was injured.
There were no witnesses.
When officers were called to the scene they discovered a yearling (1-2 years) standing over the woman’s body. Another bear and a yearling were nearby.
The yearling was shot.
Of course we can never know.
What we do know is that one bear in a million kills a human and that one is 32,000 times more likely to be murdered by a person.
We also know that Black bears evolved as prey animals and are fear – driven animals, who when cornered, may attack.
Black bears are particularly frightened of dogs for good reason.
Hounds are trained to hunt Black bears before hunting season begins. A number of hounding dogs track a bear to exhaustion at which point the hounds tree the animal until it is shot by the hunter.
This tragic incident happened in the evening when bears are foraging for food. Apparently, this was a family of three – a mother and two yearlings? If the dogs terrorized or attacked one of the bears, a bear might retaliate. My guess is that the poor woman was killed as she attempted to defend her dogs.
As a dog lover I would have made a different choice. I live in bear country and I don’t allow my dogs to roam free around dawn or dusk because I know that bears are very much afraid of dogs, and that dogs will chase a bear.
My heart goes out to the family.
Black bear attacks are very rare, but do occur. Rarely if ever is the context of the event included. In this case understanding the context in which this story occurred is critical. The dogs were running free in bear country. The woman followed her dogs outdoors because they were barking, curious, or fearing for their safety. Her dogs obviously frightened the bear(s) with their barking and perhaps an attack setting the stage for a tragic outcome.
Unfortunately the truth behind this story will disappear into sensationalism. I have already read a couple of articles that portray the bear that was shot and others nearby bears as “acting aggressively.” No one mentions the fact that when a Black bear appears to behave aggressively it has been terribly frightened.
Some state wildlife agencies and poor journalism will use this incident to further agendas by frightening the public even more and getting media attention by perpetuating the “killer bear” story.
Dr Lynn Rogers bear biologist had this to say about bear attacks involving dogs:
“A “disproportionate number” of attacks by bears on human are related to dogs, Lynn Rogers, research scientist for the Wildlife Research Institute and founder of the North American Bear Center, told ABC News.”
My hope is that those of us (like me) who are dog owners will begin to take some responsibility for allowing our dogs to roam at large especially in bear country when we know that dogs will chase bears and could get hurt.