Adventurer dies in grizzly attack

Jean-Francois Page, or “JF” as he was known to most, lived for adventure, and by the age of 28, he hadn’t left many stones unturned.

Jean-Francois Page, or “JF” as he was known to most, lived for adventure, and by the age of 28, he hadn’t left many stones unturned.

The miner, outdoorsman and film critic died in a fatal grizzly bear attack on April 28, while flagging a mineral claim approximately 30 kilometres east of Ross River.

He unknowingly approached a den containing two grizzly cubs and was attacked and killed by their mother.

Police believe she killed Page instantly, but are waiting for the results of an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

The autopsy is being done in Vancouver.

Page left many friends behind.

“He loved the North. He loved the far, far North,” said his friend Kate White, who met Page three years ago in Whitehorse.

“He had all these meaningful relationships with all these different people,” said White, who met many of them for the first time Tuesday when they gathered to remember the explorer from Bonsecours, Quebec.

“That’s what was so amazing,” said White. “He had so many friends that didn’t even know each other.”

Page came up to the Yukon in 2002, and had since been living in a log cabin without any electricity or running water on Fish Lake Road.

He became a true lover of the outdoors, fishing, hunting and eventually working in mineral exploration camps.

He made do with what he had, which wasn’t much, and could be seen struggling to fix his Toyota Corolla or building a cache for caribou meat behind his cabin.

“We used to make fun of him because he had a cellphone the size of a briefcase,” said White. “He had this battery back he had to carry around in a knapsack and would have to charge it when he came over.”

Page also spent time in Nunavut, working on the census, and, before that, in Iqualuit.

“This kid was everything — he had so many jobs,” said White. “He wore all these different jackets.”

Page was also a film critic who went to Cannes twice, she said.

“He would never stop critiquing when we would watch a movie together and would introduce me to all these crazy films that you would never find in the store.”

Two summers ago, Page began working for Aurora Geosciences Ltd., a group engaged in mineral, oil and gas and geotechnical exploration in Northern Canada and Alaska.

Page died on the first day of his third season with the company.

“This is like a bolt of lightening,” said Aurora’s vice-president Mike Power.

“We accept that this line of work entails risk, but nothing can prepare us for this,” he said in a statement prepared on behalf of the company.

“Our field staff, in particular, feels this most deeply.

“He enjoyed his work and he livened up every crew he worked with,” said Power. “JF will be greatly missed.”

Whitehorse native Anna Crawford worked on the same crew as Page for the past two summers.

She went to the Aurora office on Tuesday to talk with his co-workers and look at photos.

“I have had tons of scary experiences bumping into bears,” said Crawford. “I have even been chased. But each time I was lucky due to my positioning.”

She says the best way to protect yourself from a grizzly is a rifle, but most people don’t bring one when they are staking in the bush.

“It’s difficult to carry a rifle because your hands are full with tons of thick cables or wires. You also have to carry an axe, stakes, your GPS and your compass.”

She said workers always take bear spray and bear bangers, but these are not always enough to stop a charging bear.

“Many people take handguns to protect themselves, even though they are illegal,” she said.

The last confirmed fatal grizzly attack in the Yukon was in 1996, when a woman hiking in Kluane National Park was killed.

In June 2005, a grizzly killed a woman after puling her out of a tree near Canmore, Alberta.

There are different approaches to defending yourself from a grizzly, depending on the type of attack, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

If a mother is defending her young, act aggressively — shout and fight back.

If the bear is attacking predatorily, play dead by lying on your side curled into a ball.

Page was an uncle twice over, and was fortunate to be able to see his new niece Heloise, who was born while he was at home visiting family this winter.

A memorial for Page will be held on Thursday at the Bonanza Inn between 1 and 4 p.m. All are welcome.

There will also be an evening of food and music to celebrate Page’s life Saturday at the Association franco-yukonnaise at