Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file A grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. A grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)

Yukoners should be prepared for bear encounters any time of year, officials say

Bear encounters in the Yukon have been recorded as late as January.

Yukoners should be prepared for bear encounters when in the wilderness regardless of the time of year, an official with Environment Yukon said.

Environment Yukon’s director of conservation officer services Gordon Hitchcock gave the reminder at a press conference March 27, which coincided with the release of a coroner’s report into the deaths of a Whitehorse teacher, Valérie Théorêt, 37, and her daughter, 10-month-old Adèle Roesholt.

Théorêt and Adèle were killed by a grizzly bear near their remote trapper’s cabin on Einarson Lake, about 200 kilometres northeast of Mayo, in November 2018.

Officials later determined that the attack was predatory, and that there was little that could have been done to prevent it.

Although many Yukoners stop carrying bear spray or taking other bear-safety measures once snow falls, Hitchcock said that bear encounters in the Yukon have been recorded as late as January.

While bears typically hibernate from late fall to late spring, Hitchcock said there were a number of reasons why a particular animal might still be active well into the winter — it might, for example, have not eaten enough to build up a proper fat storage, or there might be a food source that’s worth the effort of waking up for.

Injured animals may also not follow typical hibernating patterns, he said.

The bear that attacked Théorêt and Adèle was found to be an 18-year-old male grizzly that had no body fat and would have not been able to survive hibernation. In an apparent desperate attempt to avoid starvation, the bear had eaten a porcupine — highly unusual prey for bears. As a result, it was likely in chronic and severe pain, with its face, paws and its digestive system, from its mouth to its stomach, lined with quills.

Bears do not typically view humans as prey, and will very rarely launch predatory attacks against them.

Yukoners who enter the bush, regardless of the time of year, are encouraged to carry bear spray. They’re also encouraged to take preventive measures like ensuring a clean camp and storing and securing attractants, whether at home or out in the wilderness.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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