WHITEHORSE, Yukon — A Whitehorse French immersion teacher and her infant are dead after a grizzly bear attack at their trapper’s cabin in a remote area of central Yukon, their bodies discovered by her partner as he returned home from a trapline.
Valérie Théorêt, 37, and her 10-month-old daughter, Adele Røsholt, were killed by a grizzly bear Monday at their cabin in the Einarson Lake area, according to a press release by the Yukon Coroner’s Service.
The lake is about 124 miles northeast of Mayo, near the Yukon-Northwest Territories border.
Authorities were notified about the deaths after Théorêt’s partner, Gjermund Røsholt, activated an emergency alarm at 3:45 p.m. Monday, the press release says.
Røsholt was returning from a trapline around 3 p.m. when, about 100 yards away from the cabin he shared with Théorêt and Adele, a grizzly bear charged him and he was “forced to shoot the bear dead.”
Gjermund continued his approach to the cabin, where, just outside, he discovered Théorêt and Adele’s bodies.
The two appear to have gone outside for a walk sometime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when they were fatally attacked by the grizzly, the release says, adding that the family had been trapping in the area for the past three months.
The Yukon Coroner’s Service is continuing its investigation with the assistance of Mayo RCMP, the RCMP’s forensic identification section and Environment Yukon.
Environment Yukon will also be performing a necropsy on the bear.
Théorêt was a Grade 6 late French-immersion teacher at Whitehorse Elementary School, Yukon Department of Education spokesperson Michele Royle confirmed Tuesday, adding that counselors will be present at the school over the coming days to support students and staff.
L’association franco-yukonnaise (AFY) will also be hosting a support and sharing event for community members at the Centre de la francophonie in downtown Whitehorse on Thursday, according to a post on AFY’s Facebook page. A psychotherapist will be available on-site.
In an “about your teacher” section on a student website created for the 2017-18 school year, Théorêt, who, at that point had taught at Whitehorse Elementary for six years, wrote that she was born and raised in Quebec before moving to the Yukon in 2005.
“My mother tongue is French and I am very grateful to be bilingual now,” Théorêt wrote, adding that she also spoke basic Spanish and was learning Norwegian because her partner was from Norway.
“I am also passionate about outdoors, sports, nature, arts and music,” she wrote, adding that she coached Grade 7 basketball. “This is what my summer revolved around so I am starting the year rested and full of energy.”
Old news articles and blog posts show that Théorêt participated in orienteering events and, in 2007, was a handler for the Yukon Quest 300.
Prior to teaching, Théorêt wrote, she had studied and worked in graphic design for 12 years. She was the art director for Whitehorse’s Aasman Brand Communications for close to five years, leaving the company in 2010 to pursue teaching, according to a blog post on Aasman’s website.
Théorêt appears to have continued pursuing her passion for design on the side, setting up an online store where she sold fabrics, wallpapers and gift wraps featuring custom designs.
She also appears to have been active in her partner’s company, Wildtracks Adventure Services. The company’s website advertises guiding services for trapping, hunting and fishing in the Yukon, and also sells custom fur and animal products. Røsholt is listed as a wild guide and consultant; Théorêt, a designer and artisan of fur products; and Adele, a fur lover.
Fatal bear attacks are rare in the Yukon. One of the last documented human deaths involving a bear encounter took place in October 2014, when 42-year-old Claudia Huber was mauled by a grizzly bear outside her home near Johnson’s Crossing. However, a coroner’s investigation later determined that Huber had, in fact, been killed by a stray bullet that her husband had fired at the bear during the attack.
There have only been two other bear attacks in the Yukon over 22 years, Environment Yukon spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn said in an email Wednesday — one in Ross River in 2006, and in Kluane National Park in 1996.
Stasyszyn also wrote that it’s not unusual to see bear activity in the Yukon “well into November and even January,” explaining that bears that aren’t hibernating by this time are either still foraging because they’re finding food sources that make it worthwhile, are lacking fat stores to successfully hibernate, or have lost or had their dens disturbed.