May 31, 2012

Bear Attack Tales With a Tinge of Humor



     Picture this: You’re in deep in a heavily wooded forest campground in Canada’s backcountry. You find it necessary to use the outhouse, and can’t resist leaving the door open to admire the view while taking care of your business—after all, you are super isolated.

     You sit on the throne, your feet are sort of up on the ‘poopstool,’ when a black bear charges in.2


     Not according to Gord Shurvell, 65, of Winnipeg, Canada. The story was reported on the Canadian Broadcasting Company station out of Kingston, Canada and in a May 24, 2012, newspaper report (while my husband and I were in Heuvelton, New York, near the St. Lawrence River). 

     “So I’m kicking at him to get away, but he grabbed my pants that were down around my ankles… and he just kept coming.”

     The hulking beast got ahold of the retired train conductor’s neck and dragged him from the outhouse for about 50 feet, while he screamed for his life.

     “I knew what was going to happen, so I slowly took my face down and buried it right in the muskeg [boggy soil], because I’m waiting…

     His camping buddy, Daniel Alexander, heard his cries, came running to the rescue armed with a rifle, and shot the bear in the head, killing it.

     “Bang. And I felt the bear fall off me,” Gord said.2


     There have been numerous other black bear (Ursus americanus) attacks in Canada since 2005. Picture the following two3:

  • Sept. 8, 2008: Reg MacDonald…was riding his motorbike when a bear jumped on his bike and sent him flying through the air into a deep ditch. The 74-year-old was in a coma for 3 weeks after he was rescued.
  • Sept. 10, 2008: A black bear swam across a river, climbed on a dock and then jumped on a boat to attack a man on Vancouver Island who was fishing at a marina. Friends and passersby came to the man’s aid and used gaffs (fishing spears), knives and a hammer to pull the bear away. The bear was finally killed with a gaff.

     Gord’s bear attack wasn’t the only Canadian incident that occurred while we were in Heuvelton. On May 22 Gerald Marois, 47, was mauled by a large black bear in a remote wooded area northwest of Orillia while planting a food plot in a small clearing about 150 feet inside the bush line. He heard the bear behind him before he saw it.

     “I turned around and he was about 50 feet away — one of the biggest bears I had ever seen in my life…His head was huge, his eyes were really far apart from each other and he had tiny, tiny ears, which is the sign of a huge boar — probably 600 pounds.

     “He looked at me and moved sideways a bit, I start backing up and he just charged me. He came full blast, man.”

     Marois ran to a nearby oak tree and climbed three-quarters of the way up. The bear followed him. Marois tried to fight the bear off of the trees upper branches, but it kept coming up after him.

     “I was hitting him on the nose and on the head, trying to hurt him, and every time I hit him he was scraping me and just pulling on my boots.”

     The bear pulled off one of his boots and started biting the bottom of his feet before dragging Marois almost to the ground. Marois made at least ten attempts to escape the bear by climbing farther up the tree, but the bear repeatedly dragged him down.

     “I was trying to get away from him in every direction that I could in that oak tree, but he kept on dragging me down; he wanted me down on the ground.”

     Marois kicked the bear with his booted foot but the bear “grabbed that boot and he ripped it right off” before trying to rip off his chest waders.

     “That was messing him up, because they were coming back like an elastic, eh? And it was hard for him to rip them off.”

     The bear eventually succeeded and then started eating Marois’s flesh. Marois said he watched the bear eat his right calf “meat and he was licking the blood and licking himself and just enjoying every bite of it.”

     Marois turned to his only weapon—a cigarette lighter. When he “started burning his face” the bear clawed him in the head.

     “I got really weak from that hit. I had barely nothing left, so I told God I was putting my life in his hands.”

     He prayed that his guardian angel would protect him, because he couldn’t fight the bear any longer. At that moment the bear threw Marois about twenty feet from the tree. When he looked up he watched the bear dive out of the tree in the opposite direction.

     Marois knew he still wasn’t safe. The bear roamed around him, gnashing his teeth and making a guttural barking noise Marois called a “bawl” — the same noise it made before charging at him. Certain he was dead, he told God “Keep your hand over me, protect me.”

     Marois managed to call his wife and 911. It took them more than an hour to find him. Meanwhile, Marois heard the bear nearby.

     Eventually he was located. “That’s when I finally could breathe.”


     I’ve photographed a bear standing beside my bird feeder, his paws so lightly touching the supporting pole that he didn’t knock the feeder down. Some time before that I watched a bear ramble through our driveway, up the path through our woods, and into my daughter’s yard. One night my husband Monte awakened me to show me the bear in the window, reaching gently towards a bird feeder suctioned to the glass.

     These seem innocent experiences. We remained inside the house and did nothing to challenge the bears.

     And really, aren’t the bears more scared of us than we are of them?

     ‘Tain’t necessarily so.


     A research study showed only a weak positive correlation…between the estimated size of a bear population within a given jurisdiction and the number of fatal black bear attacks.

     However, it showed a positive linear relationship between the number of fatal black bear attacks and human population size in the United States and Canada…86% of the fatalities occurred between 1960 and 2009.

     Researchers judged that bears involved acted as a predator in 49 of 56 of fatal incidents. Adult or subadult male bears were involved in 33 of 36 of fatal predatory incidents, reflecting biological and behavioral differences between male and female bears.

     That most fatal black bear attacks were predatory and were carried out by one bear shows that females with young are not the most dangerous black bears.1


     Reading the above I recall being told that in my community, a few years back, a bear broke into a house after smelling food cooking inside. Fortunately, no human was nearby at the time.

     Reading the black bear research and the Canadian attack reports provides a new perspective.  

     Marois believes the bear tracked him. “…That bear wanted to maul me; he was hungry and he came to get me…I want the population of Toronto to be aware that they’re not scared of us. They roam the forest and if they’re hungry, they’ll get you, man. There’s nothing you can do about it.”4

     The research results will help agencies managing black bear more accurately understand the risk of being killed by a black bear, and to communicate this to the public. With training, people can learn to recognize the behaviors of a bear considering them as prey and can act to deter predation.1






A Pig’s Eye View of National Pig Day

Dog Stories I Heard at the Café





3 Bear attacks no novelty in Canada, Kathleen Power & Peggy Mackenzie Star Library  Published May 24, 2012–bear-attacks-no-novelty-in-canada



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