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A Yukon trapper shot an attacking grizzly bear — then discovered it had probably already killed his family

A grizzly bear on the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada, on Aug. 12, 2009. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
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Gjermund Roesholt was returning from checking his fur traps in the Canadian Yukon on Monday afternoon when he found himself in the path of an aggressive, charging grizzly bear. The confrontation was only the start of the day’s horror for the Norwegian-born trapper.

His family — his partner, Valérie Théorêt and their 10-month-old baby, Adele Roesholt — had spent the fall in the cold and sparsely populated region 500 miles east of Anchorage, trapping furs around Einarson Lake.

They had purchased the trapline three years before, friends told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and planned to spend as much time in the beautiful, remote region as possible, living off the land. Spending time there was a balancing act because Théorêt was also a sixth-grade French immersion teacher in the town of Whitehorse, 250 miles away.

But then baby Adele came and Théorêt went on maternity leave, giving the small family the opportunity to pursue their passion in the Canadian bush.

Roesholt, 37, operated a company called Wild Tracks, serving as a guide for people interested in hunting, fishing and trapping.

His Instagram page was something out of Field & Stream magazine. It showed him holding fish the size of his torso and selling wares at the Yukon fur market. He would trap the animals, and Théorêt would fashion some of the furs into crafts: booties for children, mittens for adults and heart-shaped refrigerator magnets for whoever would buy them. In one photo snapped at the market, Roesholt has his arm around Théorêt near a table full of furs for sale, a baby stroller nearby.

Should wild animals that attack people be killed?

The dangers of their existence in a region inhabited by gray wolves and two species of bear were obvious, but Roesholt and Théorêt were experienced bush people, friends told news organizations. There are few documented fatal bear attacks in the Yukon, the Yukon News reported. And Roesholt carried a gun.

When the bear charged Monday, the Yukon Coroner’s Service said in a news release, Roesholt was “forced to shoot the bear dead” less than a football field’s length from the family’s cabin.

He was almost home when he discovered the bodies.

His partner and daughter had been mauled to death, apparently by the same grizzly.

Roesholt activated an emergency SPOT alarm, a beacon that people in remote areas use to alert authorities and loved ones when they encounter danger.

The investigators who arrived a short time later think the mother and daughter had gone out for a walk sometime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the news release said. They probably encountered the same bear but couldn’t make it back to the cabin in time.

“It’s a big, big blow. Everybody is totally devastated right now,” Rémy Beaupré, a friend who heard details about the incident from another friend who received the emergency message, told the CBC.

In the Yukon, trappers own a series of traps called a line, and routinely go from location to location on foot or snowmobile. It is a source of income, but also a way of life for outdoorsy people that has changed only slowly over the centuries.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported in 2016 that there are about 360 active traplines in the Yukon Territory.

It was a lifestyle the couple seemed to relish, even as they dabbled in exploring it full time.

The couple’s Facebook pages were filled with pictures of them in the snowy outdoors — Roesholt reclining on a mountaintop, Théorêt grinning as she held a tiny fish. They also shared breathtaking photos of the northern land that had become their home, full of rushing rivers, towering evergreen trees and snow-capped mountains.

But this year, the photos began to show something else they adored.

In one of Théorêt’s uploads on Facebook, baby feet are planted in sand. In another, Théorêt holds Adele, then 5 weeks old, swaddled in blankets.

“What a beauty you have brought into the world,” one friend remarked, one entry in a stream of congratulations about the family’s tiny addition.

“Thank you,” Théorêt gushed. “So satisfied.”

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