Forestry Workers Stave Off Grizzly Attack

Using Pepper Spray Helped To Stop The Bear, Bear Hunting Magazine

CRANBROOK, B.C. -- Two forest contractors used their wits and a good shot of pepper spray to make a harrowing escape from a grizzly bear attack in southeastern British Columbia.

The charging bear left one of the two hospitalized for four days with a badly chewed arm and some wounds to his leg.

The two, a man and a woman, were in a deep thicket doing road planning work last week for Maple Leaf Forestry Consulting in Cranbrook, B.C. It appears they surprised the grizzly.

John Anderson, president of Maple Leaf, said it was presence of mind and raw heroism that saved their lives.

"Oh my God. I can't believe how lucky we were not to lose anybody out there,' he said. "We would have been devastated if that had happened. To have a grizzly attack like that and both of them come out of it . . . it's unbelievable.'

Both employees, in their early 30s, declined to be interviewed and asked that their names not be released.

Anderson said they saved each other's lives.

The man got the grizzly to move toward him and dove for cover. The cinnamon-coloured bear started attacking him and his coworker tried to get it to go after her.

At first the animal continued to chew on the man's arm and leg.

"It was incredible,' Anderson said. "I talked to him in the hospital when he was feeling better and he said this is what he always thought he'd do if a bear attacked him. He said he would try to stick his finger in his eye and to remain calm and not panic.'

He managed get some protection under a deep pile of brush while the enraged grizzly was attacking him. But it wasn't until he was able to kick it in the snout with his metal-pointed, cork boots that the bear backed off and resumed interest in his companion, who was packing pepper spray.

"She sprayed him from about six feet and gave him quite a strong blast of it and the bear started to cough and make wheezy sounds and that gave them time to start leaving the area,' Anderson said.

The woman was not able to carry her male colleague out of the woods so she left him with the rest of her bear spray. Then she ran about four kilometres to find help.

Another crew went to his aid and he was airlifted to hospital and treated for lacerations and puncture wounds to his arm and leg.

Both employees attended a company safety workshop a month ago where the man had given his female work partner instructions on how to use pepper sray.

"That was absolutely critical,' said Anderson. "Thank God we'd gone over some of that stuff before it happened.'

In light of last week's encounter Anderson said he's considering making all his employees carry pepper spray.

East Kootenay Conservation Officer Paul Visentin said an investigation at the scene revealed no signs of the bear having made a recent kill or any cubs in the area.

"It was a very hot day and the bear was probably sleeping in that deep draw and he just surprised him.'

Visentin said both contractors must have "nerves of steel.'

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