Black bear kills worker at Alberta oil sands base

Lorna Weafer, a 36-year-old instrument technician with Suncore, has been identified as the victim.

Last Wednesday, a large, male black bear attacked Weafer on the base, which is located 25 kilometers of Fort McMurray, Alta. as she made her way back to work from a washroom in a busy industrial area. Those who saw the attack say they didn’t see where the bear came from, and that the attack happened very quickly.

Weafer’s co-workers attempted to scare away the bear using fire extinguishers, a water cannon, and an air horn. Although they were able to momentarily distract the bear, it would not let up. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mike Ewald, an investigator with Alberta Fish and Wildlife, told the CBC that the attack lasted about an hour.

RCMP arrived on the scene shortly after and shot and killed a nearby bear. The deceased bear is undergoing DNA tests to ensure it was the bear that mauled Weafer.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Occupational Health and Safety, and the Alberta Fish and Wildlife are investigating the incident to determine if Weafer’s death could have been prevented.

A spokesperson with the union Unifor has already noted that they believe Weafer nor her colleagues were carrying bear spray at the time of the attack. The union is now conducting a full review into the incident.

Several live bear traps have been set up in the vicinity. One adult male bear has already been trapped.

In Alberta, black bear attacks are rare. However, when they do happen, they’re often very serious or fatal. In 1991, a 12-year-old boy was killed at a campground.
Ewald says that this attack appears to be predatory since the bear was not provoked.

“With wildlife incidents like this…it also reminds that’s exactly what they are – wildlife—and not predictable. There’s not cookie cutter solution for dealing with human-wildlife conflict,” he said.