On July 20, the Ontario Provincial Police found a 67-year-old man dead on Tuzyk Road off Hwy. 105 between the townships of Red Lake and Ear Falls, Ont. A black bear, spotted in the vicinity of the man’s body, was shot and killed by officers.
The man had left his home in Red Lake early Monday morning to pick blueberries at a popular spot off Tuzyk Road. When he didn’t return by evening, the police were contacted.
Two local OPP detachments and an emergency response team were dispatched. Joel Eppinghaus, media relations officer for Red Lake’s OPP detachment, confirms that the man was dead when the teams found him.
While the cause of death has yet to be determined, the black bear, spotted nearby, was killed as a precaution. “We’re unsure if it was indeed a bear attack that caused the death,” Eppinghaus says. “The investigation is moving forward as best we can to try and find out what exactly happened.”
Black bear attacks are uncommon in the area, according to Eppinghaus—a trend consistent with the rest of North America. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, only 63 people died from black bear attacks between 1900 and 2009. The study found that eight per cent of these killings were attributed to protective mother bears, while the majority of incidents were the result of predatory behaviour by lone, male black bears.
Little has been released about the black bear killed near Tuzyk Road, but its body will be transported to the University of Guelph for an autopsy.
Despite the rarity of bear attacks in the area, Eppinghaus says it’s still important to be prepared if you’re heading into the bush. “When you’re going out, you should have some sort of protection, whether it’s bear spray or bear bangers.” He adds that if you encounter a black bear that doesn’t seem afraid of you or is exhibiting aggressive behaviour, you should report the incident to your local police or animal control.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry also provides bear encounter advice on its Bear Wise website. If you encounter a black bear, it says not to run or make direct eye contact. Instead, drop any food you are carrying; back away slowly, keeping the bear in sight, and if it doesn’t leave, throw objects at it, wave your arms, and make as much noise as possible.