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Suncor Energy Inc. kicks off a week loaded with oil and gas-company first-quarter earnings in a sector buoyed by strong commodity prices and the lower value of the Canadian dollar.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

A large black bear killed a Suncor Energy Inc. employee Wednesday while the individual was at the company's main oil sands operation.

Suncor, a major Canadian oil producer, said the employee was the "victim of a bear attack" Wednesday afternoon and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The victim was a 36-year old female, according to Alberta Occupational Health and Safety spokesman Barrie Harrison.

RCMP, along with other authorities, responded to the attack shortly after 2 p.m. MT. The male bear was still in the area and it was "shot and killed by RCMP members," the Mounties said in a statement.

Black and grizzly bears are coming out of hibernation now. The incident took place at Suncor's main mining operations, about 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. Alberta's oil sands operations sit in prime bear and wildlife territory, although this area is defined by open pit mines rather than forest. Companies are required to complete environmental assessments and take preventative measures to ensure animals near their operations remain safe.

It is "not clear the type of area the employee was in or how she came into contact with the bear," Mr. Harrison said in an email. OHS is investigating, Mr. Harrison said.

"We are shocked by this very unusual incident and there are no words to express the tragedy of this situation," Mark Little, Suncor's executive vice-president in charge of its upstream division, said in a statement. "All of us need to focus on personal safety and I would urge everyone to be extremely vigilant in dealing with wildlife."

The RCMP said it has turned the scene over to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development's Fish and Wildlife Division for further investigation.

"Although occurrences like this are rare, everyone has to be aware of the dangers involved when any wild animal is present whether in the bush or populated areas," the RCMP said.

Suncor said it is working with "the appropriate authorities" and will complete a full investigation. (It is protocol the RCMP and Alberta Occupational Health and Safety investigate when an employee dies working at Suncor's operations).

Notification of the family is ongoing, Suncor and the RCMP said. The name of the individual will not be released without their consent, Suncor said.

This is the third Suncor employee to die at its operations in 2014, although the previous two were work-related incidents.

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