A 79-year-old woman sustained substantial, but non-life-threatening injuries that required stitches after a bear attack while out with her dog near the archery club in Smithers.
Conservation officer Ron Leblanc said the Wednesday (Aug. 2) incident was a defensive attack as the woman and her off-leash dog startled the bear.
“The bear wasn’t doing anything it shouldn’t, it was just out eating berries and salmon,” Leblanc said.
Paul Murphy, the woman’s son, said his mom is an experienced hiker and knows how to avoid bear attacks. She was on her way off the archery club grounds when she noticed the bear grazing on the lawn inside the gate.
“Her dog was unleashed, but was also ‘at heel’ not running around all over the place drawing in bears,” Paul said.
She decided to take an alternate route off the property through a brushed trail to avoid the bear. However, when she exited the trail, the bear was right there.
“They were both obviously shocked and the confrontation ensued,” Paul said noting there was literally two-feet between them at that point.
“She often carries bear spray but did not have one that day as she had never seen bears there before. She defended herself by screaming and holding out her right arm.”
The bear ultimately ran off into the bush, but left the woman with a large gash, 10 cm long and up to five cm deep, on her right arm, as well as three large scratches on her chest and a bite on her right hand that penetrated through the fleshy part between her thumb and index finger.
“She also agrees that while serious, the bear was not predatory, just reacting to being surprised — she did not want the bear put down,” Paul said.
In such cases, the Conservation Officer Service does not kill or relocate bears, Leblanc said, noting that while there have been other sightings, there is no indication this two-or three-year-old black bear has been into any unnatural attractants or is habituated to humans.
“It was one four-legged animal running into another four-legged animal, the bear saw the dog as a threat and attacked,” Leblanc said.
The COS put up a sign on the gate asking the public to steer clear of the area located off Tatlow Road just past the fairgrounds for a couple of days to give the bear a chance to move on.
The service also reminds people to always remain aware and cautious when out in nature as northwestern B.C. is undeniably bear country.
“I would like to emphasize when in bear territory, have your dogs on a leash and make noise to avoid startling any bears in the area,” Leblanc said. “Also, having bear spray and knowing how to use it.”
Paul took umbrage with the implication that the dog may have caused the attack.
“In this case, I feel the dog saved her life in all likelihood.”
Sightings of bears or other wild animals, particularly if visiting unnatural attractants or acting aggressively should be reported to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-RAPP or online at rapp.bc.ca.