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Maple Plain Woman Killed By Black Bear Near Rainy Lake

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A black bear mauled and killed a Minnesota woman just north of the border.

Sixty-two-year-old Catherine Sweatt-Mueller was checking on her two dogs outside the family's remote Rainy Lake cabin. It sits on the 62-acre Red Pine Island, which is in Canadian waters, just north of Voyageurs National Park and east of International Falls.

When she didn't return to the cabin Sunday evening at suppertime, her parents contacted Ontario Provincial Police. Arriving by boat about 30 minutes later, officers would discover a female black bear acting aggressively and near the deceased woman's body.

"If a black bear wants to eat you, you need to fight back. If a grizzly bear is attacking, generally, if you play dead, that does it," explains DNR wildlife research biologist, Andy Tri.

The DNR's Tri says that black bear attacks are extremely rare in Minnesota. While this incident occurred just over the U.S and Canadian border, there have been just 14 recorded black bear attacks on humans in state history. Eight of those cases involved injuries serious enough to require hospitalizations – however, never has a fatality occurred.

"When they're getting nervous and you're too close they may make chomping noises with their teeth or a huffing noise and often swat the ground," added Tri.  "This is their way of warning you that you need to stay away."

Sweatt-Mueller lives in Maple Plain and was at the cabin, caring for her parents and two dogs. The family released a brief statement requesting privacy.

In all of North America, there have been 25 documented cases of fatal black bear attacks in the past 22 years.

Experts advise campers to be especially watchful for mothers with cubs, even yearlings.

Finally, if you encounter a black bear, speak loudly, act aggressively, back away slowly but do not turn and run.

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