Canadian Man Mauled By Bear In Boat

BC News, Bear Hunting Magazine
09/11/2008

In British Columbia a man has been mauled by a black bear aboard a small fishing boat tied up at a Port Renfrew wharf this week.

Ed Stirling ran to help and he could see half a dozen men were already trying to pry the bear off its victim without success in an unusual, sustained attack.

"I grabbed my best knife. When I got there the victim was being thoroughly gripped by the bear with his paws and it was chewing on his back. It was a horrific sight," Mr. Stirling stated.

The bear was standing, doggedly gripping its victim with its teeth and front paws while four men tried to pry it off with fishing gaffs, strong poles with hooks designed for lifting heavy fish, with such force that they bent the poles. Another man was beating the animal's head with a hammer before he picked up a 10-centimetre blade and stabbed it repeatedly.

Mr. Stirling pleaded with the other man to stop annoying the bear with his tiny knife, then stepped forward with his chosen weapon, a Swedish filleting knife with a 30-cm blade.

"I was saying, 'Where is his head?' When I could see his throat, I reached in stabbing. I could hear blood flowing. I figured I got his jugular."

The victim, a 52-year-old Saltspring Island man whose name has not been released, is in stable condition in a Victoria hospital. The initial results of a necropsy performed on the bear by a vet yesterday showed the animal was very old, skinny and in poor health.

Mr. Stirling said the animal was completely focused on its victim throughout the attack, which lasted about five minutes. "It was premeditated. He went straight for him and there is nothing you could do to prevent it. Any one of us could have been the victim, I was surprised he didn't choose me because I was the only one on the dock cleaning fish."

Bud Watt, one of the first rescuers on the scene, said someone tried to distract the bear with fish but it seemed intent on bigger prey. "It never let go until it was dead," he said. "It didn't know we were there."

Mr. Watt, the owner of the Port Renfrew Marina, where the attack took place, said the bear swam a short distance across an estuary where the marina is located and vaulted straight over the back of the boat at the man.

"This was a pretty humbling experience. There's a 200-pound bear, and 700 pounds of men cannot move it," he said. "They always seem such lethargic beasts when you see them walking along the beach, but when you see the damage they can do, they are not cute anymore."

He said it never occurred to him to do anything but run toward the attack. "Everyone was thinking, 'We got to stop this thing or this guy's going to die.' No way anyone could sit around and watch."

The marina is in a remote area known for black bears, a two-hour drive west of Victoria, and a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Environment said conservation officers had to put down a bear just a few weeks ago in the area because of aggressive behavior.

But Kate Thompson said this attack was unusual. "This was a very aggressive bear. When you have five or seven people fighting it and it wouldn't back off."

Ms. Thompson stated that roughly 700 bears are killed each year in British Columbia because of conflicts with humans, but this has been an especially bad year in some areas because a poor season for berries has starved many animals.

The Port Renfrew incident was the seventh bear attack on a human in British Columbia this year, but the first one on Vancouver Island since 2005.



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