The victim of last week’s fatal bear attack near the Mackenzie River was warned of the dangers of camping in remote country just days before he was mauled to death.
A chance encounter led Lyn Anderson to cross paths with victim Julien Gauthier, 44, in Fort Simpson on Aug. 10.
Anderson, a long time Fort Simpson resident, was walking by the mudflats along the river — near the Rock Monument — with his partner Brenda Norwegian when he spotted an inflatable canoe by the water.
Camille Toscani, a biologist embarking on a canoe trip from Fort Providence to Inuvik alongside Gauthier, soon appeared.
“We found out they were on a trip of a lifetime on the Mackenzie River,” Anderson told News/North.
Anderson, who said he often helps travellers passing through town, gave Toscani a ride in his truck to Fort Simpson Territorial Park, where she and Gauthier were staying the night.
“Then we met Julien,” recalled Anderson, who described Gauthier as a “happy, really nice guy.”
“You could tell he was just on cloud nine. They were just totally happy that they were going on the trip,” he added.
“I knew they were special people.”
Anderson, a trapper who has had many close calls with bears over his 50-plus years in the area, eventually brought up bears in conversation with the travellers.
He asked Gauthier and Toscani if they had a gun to protect themselves.
They told him they had bear spray, but no gun.
“(Toscani) reassured me she was a biologist and she’d dealt with bears before and there shouldn’t be a problem,” said Anderson. He told the travellers he wasn’t trying to scare them and they all shared a laugh, Anderson remembered.
Anderson and Norwegian wished Gauthier and Toscani well before they parted ways. They said they were planning on getting a ride to Wrigley the next day to make up for lost time, said Anderson.
“That was the last time we saw them,” said Anderson.
Less than a week later, Anderson heard the tragic news — Toscani had waved down campers in a remote area some 50 kilometres south of Tulita after Gauthier was attacked and killed by a bear in the middle of the night.
“I was just floored. It was just kind of a horror for me when I heard about it,” said Anderson, who became emotional when he learned of the attack.
“I end up giving them my experience and my take on bears, then to hear that he got killed by a bear — it hit me like a ton of bricks.”
Anderson said he knows the deadly attack was beyond his control, but he wishes he would have imparted the pair with more advice to avoid bear encounters — like sleeping around a large bonfire.
“It’s been bothering me ever since,” he said.
Before the travellers parted ways with Anderson and his partner, Toscani gave Norwegian her email address.
When the time is right, Anderson said he hopes to send his condolences to her.