Bear attack victim did nothing wrong

Creston Conservation Officer James Barber says that a man who was hospitalized last week after a run-in with a Grizzly bear was not at fault.

“Contrary to some of the comments I have seen on social media, he did absolutely nothing wrong,” Barber said on Saturday. The man was paddling his kayak on Kootenay River and pitched a tent on the shore for the night. He was an experienced and well-equipped outdoorsman, Barber said.

“But he did not know that he had pitched his tent next to a corridor for a family unit of Grizzly bears,” he said. The temporary campsite was very close to where the sow and her cubs routinely swam across the river to forage for food.

The man came face to face with the sow early in the morning while making a short walk from his tent. After the mauling, he was able to call for help by cell phone, and then paddled “about two and a half kilometres to the Old Ferry Landing”, where an ambulance was waiting.

“He was well prepared for the outdoors,” Barber said. “He was just unlucky.”

Latest reports indicate the man is recovering following surgery.

After an investigation, he said the bear(s) would not be destroyed.

“There is no history with these bears being a danger,” he said. “We have had reports of sitings, but no complaints. The sow was protecting multiple cubs from this year and this was a defensive attack. There is not much visual distance at that location and both parties were surprised.”

Barber added that the bears apparently swam away immediately after the incident and have not returned to the site since.

The attack came at a time when other Grizzly bears nearby have become a concern. A poplar hiking area along Summit Creek, and the logging site further up the mountain, has attracted at least three Grizzly bears, largely due to the illegal and irresponsible dumping of animal remains by what Barber describes as “a backyard butcher.”

“This dumping is troubling because hikers use both the Trans Canada and Balancing Rock Trail in the area. Just a few meters south of Summit Creek Bridge a trail divides, one leading to Balancing Rock Trail. The other fork runs for several kilometers along the Summit Creek drainage, crossing a logging road accessed by another bridge to the west, near Highway 3A.

“I surmise that bears are now visiting the area, looking for scraps, and it is causing a huge public safety concern. The illegal dumper could possibly end up being responsible for the deaths of three Grizzlys. This is not a business that is responsible—it’s a backyard butcher and it has to stop.”

Some of the area’s Grizzly bears have radio collars that makes tracking their activities easy, but Barber said that the population has increased in recent years, and that Grizzlys have all but cleared the Creston Valley of black bears.

“We appreciate reports of Grizzly sitings called into the RAPP line(Call 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network),” he said. “I like to be aware of their comings and goings.”

With it now being illegal to dump animal bodies or parts in the landfill, he said the RDCK and other stakeholders are working on a solution, an animal compost site.

“It’s a work in progress.”

Barber credits local efforts to reduce conflicts between Grizzly bears and humans. Farmers and residents “are trying hard to reduce conflicts, and their efforts are appreciated,” he said.

In an effort to educate the public about Grizzly bears, Barber said another Bear Fair is planned for August 11 at a location to be determined. Like the previous one held at the Wildlife Centre, it will feature wildlife biologist Dr. Michael Procter and include a presentation about electric fencing. Also, Barber and new CO Curtis Haslehurst will be demonstrating the use of pepper spray. Cans of inert spray will allow the public to learn about the use of deterrent sprays first-hand.

Watch the Advance for more information about the Bear Fair in coming weeks.

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