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Yukon tragedy: Grizzly bear attacks extremely rare, say experts

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WATCH: Experts say grizzly bear attacks extremely rare – Nov 28, 2018

The fatal grizzly bear attack that claimed the life of a Yukon mother and her 10-month-old child has shocked the community, but experts say such deadly interactions are extremely rare.

The mother and infant killed at a remote cabin near Mayo are the first deaths attributed to a grizzly in the territory in more than a decade.

According to Mike Baldry with the BC Conservation Officer Service, the last recorded fatal grizzly attack in B.C. was 15 years ago.

READ MORE: Dramatic video shows Bella Coola man firing shotgun at charging grizzly bear

“One bear near Kitimat was found consuming human remains recently, but it couldn’t be determined if the bear killed the person or not,” he said.

In the U.S. there have been eight recorded deaths in the last 11 years.

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Most conflicts between bears and humans come as the result of surprise encounters. A hiker might stumble across a bear, or someone might get too close to a mother and her cubs.

WATCH: Yukon mother and infant killed by grizzly

Click to play video: 'Deadly Yukon bear attack' Deadly Yukon bear attack
Deadly Yukon bear attack – Nov 28, 2018

READ MORE: ‘My scalp tore and it dropped me’: Bella Coola man describes grizzly bear attack

Grizzly bears have been known to turn predatory towards humans, but only in extreme cases. Usually it is the result of severe food stress that drives bears to prey on humans.

Chris Servheen is an adjunct professor at the University of Montana who has been studying grizzly bear populations for years and is often called on when there is a fatal attack.

He says food stress late in the fall can often lead adult males to delay hibernation, especially if they haven’t put on enough fat stores.

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“A necropsy needs to be done to see if this particular bear was food stressed, or had some sort of injury,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: Inuit hunter killed, two injured in polar bear attack in Nunavut

“Maybe it had broken teeth or a broken jaw that prevented it from eating this summer.”

The bears are out there, often in areas frequented by people.

Yellowstone National Park, for example, is home to about 700 grizzly bears and sees millions of tourists visit every year.

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