Yukoners say bush life still safer than the city after grizzly kills mom: ‘We prepare, we’re aware’
The tragic death of a Yukon mother and her 10-month-old daughter, killed by a grizzly bear outside their remote cabin on a northern trapline, has made international headlines.
Some outside of Canada — or the country’s North — have questioned what the family was doing in such a remote area, packed with dangerous wildlife.
That’s a question many locals say misses the day-to-day reality of the territory they love, which has been under the microscope given the unusual way Valérie Théorêt died.
“It’s just the mechanism of what has happened that has drawn extra attention,” said Brian Melanson, president of the Yukon Trappers’ Association.
“Trapping is a heritage industry, and they were out there for three months. It was their third year on that location and they knew the area.”
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Many residents Global News spoke with acknowledged that Yukon is “the bush,” but said locals learn how to live safely with wildlife — to the point where it’s safer than the city.
“There is less people killed by wild animals up here than down south in the big cities by traffic,” said Reinhardt Bruengger, a Yukon resident who moved from Switzerland to get away from urban living.
“Nobody [does] research about why somebody got run over by a car… it’s a bad thing either way, but it doesn’t happen that often.”
Charles Nadeau — a trapper — agreed, calling downtown Vancouver far more dangerous than the Yukon backcountry.
“In the bush, that’s the way it is. I’m not scared, I feel way more comfortable in the bush than in the city. We just prepare, we’re aware,” he said.
By that same measure, however, locals acknowledge that accidents can happen anywhere, particularly in a Yukon that is changing in unexpected ways.
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“I’ll be honest with you, [if] I would be on a trapline right now, I won’t be ready for a grizzly bear attack because we all thought they were sleeping,” Nadeau said.
“If I’m out on my line right now, I will only have a small rifle.”
Nadeau told Global News this was a poor year for berries, meaning the bear may have been hungry, and he pointed to a recent warm spell where the mercury hit 7 C.
Melanson added that some older bears are often still awake in late November and that he’d even seen active grizzlies last December during a surprise warm spell.
“And there I was, out on the trail with just a .22 for dispatching, so this is a big wake-up call with climate change,” he said.
“The traditional seasons that we mapped out of these animals being awake, has changed, and these animals are now staying awake longer and they’re also getting up earlier.”
On Thursday, a private service was held for Théorêt and her infant daughter, Adele Roesholt.
Family members have flown from Théorêt’s home province of Quebec and also from Norway, the native home of the infant’s father, Gjermund Roesholt, to rally around the widower.
WATCH: Friends and colleagues remember Yukon mother killed by grizzly bear
The community continues to mourn the death of Théorêt, a popular teacher, and a crowdfunding campaign has been set up to support Roesholt.
At the family’s trapping cabin, some 400 kilometres north of Whitehorse, investigators remain on scene and have restricted access to the trapline.
But for those who make the wilds of the Yukon their home, the horrific and unusual nature of the tragedy doesn’t have them second-guessing their way of life.
“As soon as you step out the door, you’re in grizzly country, you’re in black bear country, you’re in fox [and] wolf country. These are wilderness cities in the middle of the bush,” Melanson said.
“It’s in my blood since I’m seven years old. I live for that,” Nadeau added.
“It’s a passion. It’s just like playing hockey, or art… it’s stronger than me.”
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.