Last Thursday, Stephanie Blais was on the phone with her father from a remote cabin in northern Saskatchewan when she asked 9-year-old son Elie to fetch an antenna for the satellite. Seconds later, she was killed by a black bear. Her father, Hubert Esquirol, tells CTV that the last thing he heard from his 44-year-old daughter was a gurgling noise. He says he waited on the line for two minutes but there was no answer. He says her husband, Curtis, called seven minutes later to say "that the bear had attacked Stephanie, he pepper-sprayed the bear, shot the bear twice, he attended to Stephanie and gave her CPR, but by that time she had no pulse." Authorities say the attack at the cabin near Buffalo Narrows, 270 miles northwest of Saskatoon, is the first fatal bear attack in the province since 1983.
Esqiurol believes the bear must have approached his daughter from a wooded area before it " jumped up and grabbed her by the neck." Officials say the attack was not typical bear behavior and they will perform a necropsy to determine whether it was sick. "We're very surprised by this. I mean bears don't usually do this. They don't usually have this type of behavior," Ministry of Environment inspector Greg Johnson tells the CBC. "You know, to have an unprovoked attack like this is very, very rare in most cases." Esquirol says the community has rallied around the family. "It's very sad. Stephanie passed away at a place where she would not have chosen," he says, but it could have been an even bigger tragedy. He says if the bear had attacked 30 seconds earlier, it could have killed Elie and his 2-year-old sister Uma with "two swats with its front leg." (In June, a Yellowstone tourist escaped with minor injuries after surprising two grizzly bears.)