French composer Julien Gauthier has been identified as the victim of last week’s bear attack in a remote area south of Tulita, NWT Coroner Services confirms.
Gauthier, a musician and field recordist who turned the sounds of nature into music, was undertaking an ambitious canoe trip alongside biologist Camille Toscani as part of his latest “dream” project when he died, Marc Feldman of France’s Brittany Symphony Orchestra wrote in a recent Facebook post.
Gauthier, 44, became the orchestra’s composer-in-residence in 2017. He was reportedly born and raised in Canada before moving to France. He was a dual citizen of Canada and France.
Gauthier’s body was found on Friday following a search led by NWT RCMP and aided by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), that began one day earlier — triggered by a distress call originating some 50 kilometres south of Tulita. The remote area could only be reached by helicopter.
Gauthier died as a result of “multiple injuries due to a bear attack,” stated a news release from NWT Coroner Services issued Wednesday.
Gauthier and Toscani were embarking on a canoe trip on the Mackenzie River, capturing the sights and sounds along the way as part of a project that would have seen the late composer marry Northern noises with cello music once completed, according to a crowdfunding page set up to support the campaign.
The pair planned to travel from Fort Providence to Inuvik — over a 30 day period from August to September — before Gauthier was attacked and killed by the bear.
Toscani detailed the harrowing ordeal to BBC News, telling the broadcaster Gauthier was dragged away by a grizzly bear in the middle of the night. Toscani said she waved down nearby campers following the attack, who activated their emergency communication device, alerting RCMP.
Toscani and the campers were removed from the area by helicopter.
Gauthier’s partner, who remained in France during the canoe trip, told the French publication Le Parisen Gauthier grew up in Canada before leaving when he was 19. She called her late partner “ambitious” and full of passion. Gauthier lived in Seine-Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris, according to Le Parisien.
Gauthier documented the Northern journey on his Facebook page. He posted a final message on Aug. 7 — just days before he was killed.
“Tiring and inspiring!,” Gauthier wrote of the journey.
He added he’d seen several bears.
Gauthier is being remembered as a talented musician with an adventurous spirit.
“He was a sensitive, generous and talented man,” Feldman of the Brittany Symphony Orchestra wrote online.
“His work was faithful to his curious spirit, humble in front of the vast power and beauty of nature,” Feldman continued.
ENR is continuing to investigate the deadly attack.
Department officials killed two bears — a black bear and a grizzly bear — on Friday near the site of the attack to determine whether or not they were involved, and to ensure public safety, ENR spokesperson Meagan Wohlberg confirmed.
The bears were taken for necropsy — an autopsy for animals — as the investigation continues.
No results are available at this time.
Bear attacks in the territory are considered rare, stated Wohlberg.
There have been four fatal attacks in the last 20 years. Black bears were responsible for two of the attacks – one at Prosperous Lake in 2001 and the other near Nonacho Lake four years later. A grizzly bear was blamed for a third fatal attack in 2014 in the Mackenzie Mountains.
There were four non-fatal attacks — three by grizzly bears — between 2003 and 2015, according to statistics recorded by ENR.
There are 4,000 to 5,000 grizzly bears in the territory, with 2,000 to 3,000 being mature, a population that’s considered small, stated Wohlberg.