INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. —A 62-year-old Minnesota woman was apparently attacked and killed by a black bear on an island on the Ontario side of Rainy Lake.
The Ontario Provincial Police office in Fort Frances reports that the incident occurred Sunday, Sept. 1, at about 6:30 p.m. The victim was identified Wednesday afternoon as Catherine Sweatt-Mueller of Maple Plain on the western edge of the Twin Cities.
The OPP said they were called to Red Pine Island when the woman went to check on her dogs and didn’t return. Officers located the woman with the black bear nearby. The woman had been mauled to death and the bear was acting aggressively, prompting the officers to kill it.
The victim's parents, who also are from Minnesota, initially reported the woman missing. There is only one cabin on Red Pine Island, OPP officers noted.
Red Pine Island is just across the unmarked border with Minnesota, not far from a popular resort and cabin area just east of International Falls. Rainy Lake is massive, about 230,000 acres, with most of the lake in Ontario but a portion along the southern shore is in Minnesota, mostly within Voyageurs National Park.
Officers said one dog was injured but both dogs survived. Other bears also were in the area of the attack but were not killed.
Bear attacks are extremely rare, and fatal bear incidents are even more unusual. On July 22, a 16-year-old girl jogging along a wooded path near Ely was chased and bitten on the leg by a black bear. She was able to run away and receive treatment at a local hospital. It was only the 15th documented bear attack on a human in Minnesota Department of Natural Resources records. The bear did not have rabies and did not appear to be undernourished.
The DNR advises people to be wary of bears that exhibit no fear of humans and avoid approaching them. The agency also warns people not to leave food out — such as dog food or deer feed — or to intentionally feed bears, saying bears that routinely interact with people and associate them with food can become habituated to their presence.
If you encounter a black bear, the DNR advises you to speak loudly, act aggressively and do not run. Other bear experts urge fighting back against black bear attacks, as opposed to playing dead when grizzly bears attack.