Edam, Sask., Woman Killed by Black Bear While on the Phone with Her Father


Hubert Esquirol says he was talking on a satellite phone with his daughter, Stephanie Blais, when the 44-year-old was attacked by a black bear in the family cabin at McKie Lake, north of Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan.She had called last Thursday at around 5:41 p.m. CST with an update on a faulty water pump and had just sent her nine-year-old son, Elie, to the booth for an antenna.

Esquirol said he then heard a gurgling noise.

“I waited in line for two minutes and called her by name and said hello and there was no answer. So I was talking to her on the phone when the bear attacked her, ”he said.

According to Esquirol, his daughter made the call facing south in an open area as they have to get away from the trees for the satellite phone to work. Buffalo Narrows is 433 kilometers northwest of Saskatoon.

The bear, he said, would likely have come behind her from a wooded area with a small pond.

“We think he probably would have jumped up and grabbed her by the neck,” Esquirol said.

The husband sprays the pepper, pushes the bear

After waiting two minutes, Esquirol logged out and called back. Nobody answered. Seven minutes later, he received a call from Stephanie’s husband, Curtis Blais, who was in the cabin kitchen about 30 yards away.

“Curtis called me to tell me that a bear had attacked her, that she had sprayed the bear with pepper spray, and that the bear had become more angry.” »

Esquirol said Curtis told him he got a gun and shot the bear twice before he fell.

“So at that time, Stephanie had no more pulse. He gave her mouth to mouth, but she was injured beyond the point of healing. ”

Esquirol had nothing but praise for the way Curtis had reacted, saying he was doing all he could “and keeping his cool”.

RCMP said in a statement that Stephanie suffered “serious injuries” and was airlifted to Buffalo Narrows, where she was pronounced dead.

An aerial view shows the site of the cabin where the deadly bear attack occurred. (Submitted by Hubert Esquirol)

“We are very surprised by this. I mean bears usually don’t do this. They usually don’t have that type of behavior, ”said Greg Johnson, a conservation services inspector with the Department of the Environment.

“You know, having an unprovoked attack like this is very, very rare in most cases,” Johnson continued.

Stéphanie had “a strong spirit”

Esquirol and her daughter are co-owners of the fly-in cabin north of Buffalo Narrows.

Esquirol closes near Meota and is a pilot, and he had spent the first part of the month in the cabin. Two-year-old Curtis, Stephanie, Elie and Uma arrived early last week.

Stephanie and Curtis Blais pose with their daughter, Uma, and son, Elie. Stéphanie had just sent Elie to the family cabin last Thursday when she was fatally attacked by the bear. (Submitted by Hubert Esquirol)

Esquirol said her daughter had “a strong mind” and graduated in human justice and elementary education.

She lived and worked, at various times, in Kuwait, Taiwan, South Africa and Guatemala – “she had 37 countries on her passport,” Esquirol said – before returning to Saskatchewan and getting married in 2000.

Esquirol said her daughter and son-in-law spent their honeymoon at the camp where she died. A few days later, he’s still trying to process what happened.

“We are reassured to know that, less than 30 seconds before Stéphanie was attacked, her children were playing at her feet. So the bear could have attacked Stephanie, neutralized her and then killed the two children, two hits with her front paw, ”he said.

” It’s very sad. Stéphanie died in a place she would not have chosen. But since she was there, she would accept. ”

The RCMP and the Department of the Environment are investigating and will perform an autopsy on the bear to determine if it was sick or suffering from an illness at the time of the attack. This is the first fatal bear attack in the province since 1983.

Conservation officers have had a busy year in 2020, Johnson said, adding that there have been 1,070 reports to conservation officers about bears since the start of April. Most of them are related to improper storage of food and garbage, or meeting people.

The RCMP and the Department of the Environment offered their condolences to Stéphanie’s family.


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