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'Hard to believe it': Friends mourn Yukon bear attack victims

Friends are remembering Valérie Thé orêt as a strong and dynamic woman, a nature-lover, and a pillar of the Yukon's francophone community.

The 37-year-old was killed by a grizzly bear on Monday, along with her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt. The two were alone at their remote trapping cabin at the time. The baby's father, Gjermund Roesholt, found their bodies – and shot the bear dead – when he returned from a day checking his trapline.

"It's so hard to believe it," said Madeleine Piuze, one of The closest friends in Yukon.

"She will be remembered as a woman so strong and positive and loving and generous and respectful – and respectful of nature, as well. Like, she was just a nature lover," she said.

"Just an amazing woman. The best friend ever."

The family's cabin is northeast of Mayo, Yukon, near the N.W.T. border Piuze says Gjermund Roesholt came home to Whitehorse on Tuesday, to be greeted by friends. She says they gathered Tuesday evening to grieve and offer support.

'Just an amazing woman. The best friend ever, "said Madeleine Piuze. (Wayne Vallevand / CBC)

"We feel so lucky that he was willing to come with us, and he made a big difference for us and probably for him too – to feel that we were all together," she said.

"He was able to talk to the group about what he's been through – and about how they were happy, before, on the trapline, and how beautiful it was."

Thé orêt, originally from Quebec, and Roesholt, originally from Norway, had their trapline for about three years, and harvested wolves, foxes, lynx and other animals. Thé orêt would design and sell products made from the fur, while Roesholt also worked as a wilderness guide.

Thé orêt was on maternity leave from her job as a teacher. The family spent several months at their trapping cabin this fall, while she was off work. (Submitted by Josianne Gauthier)

They were spending several months at their trapline this fall, while Thé orêt was on maternity leave from her job as a French immersion teacher in Whitehorse.

"It was the time of their life," Piuze said.

A tight-knit community

The orêt has moved to Yukon more than a decade ago. She made many friends in the years since, many of them through the territory's francophone association.

Yukon's francophone community is tight-knit – there are only about 1,500 people in the territory who consider French their first language, and most live in Whitehorse.

"[Théorêt] I was a young woman, full of energy, known throughout the community because she was involved in many things, "said Isabelle Salesse, executive director of The Association franco-yukonnaise (AFY).

"It's like a domino effect, and everybody is affected by this news."

Twelve years ago, Yukon's francophone community was devastated by another fatal bear attack. Jean-Franç ois Pagé, 28, was mauled to death by Grizzly while staking mining claims near Ross River.

Salesse says Pagé – also remembered as a dynamic and adventurous spirit – is still missed. She believes the loss of Thé orêt and baby Adele will have a similar lasting impact.

"It involves a baby, and it involves someone who did so much to the community and was so positive – it's just unthinkable," she said.

'Everybody is affected by this news,' said Isabelle Salesse, executive director of the Association franco-yukonnaise. (Wayne Vallevand / CBC)

"What struck me was that [Thé​orêt] I was always smiling. She had this huge smile … her baby was following the same way. "

On Thursday, AFY will open its doors in Whitehorse to anyone who wants to be together, or may need support. The group has invited a registered psychotherapist to be on hand, from 2:30 to 9 p.m., for anyone who wants to talk.

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