You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Man credits dog for protecting him during Prince George bear attack

Vancouver Sun Vancouver Sun 19/05/2016 Mark Nielsen
Prince George resident Reid Roberts was attacked by a mother black bear during a trail run on May 17. Man credits dog for protecting him during Prince George bear attack

If it wasn’t for his dog, the victim of a bear attack in a Prince George park says his injuries would have been much worse.

It was shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday when Reid Roberts, 46, and his border collie, Pacer, ran into a mother black bear not long after the accomplished ultra-marathoner had started a training run in Forests For The World.

He had turned immediately right after leaving the parking lot at the end of Kueng Road – so he was heading away from Shane Lake – and was only a few hundred metres up the trail when the trouble began.

He and Pacer had started a slow climb towards the lookout. Pacer was about five feet ahead when they ran into the sow who was in some willows alongside the trail.

Only the day before, Roberts and Pacer had another encounter with a bear on Cranbrook Hill. That time, Pacer put the chase on it and the bear took off.

But this time, it was a very different story.

“This bear came out ears down, head down, eyes glued on me,” Roberts said. “It was in attack mode right away.”

Roberts started yelling hard and waving his hands while backing up to no avail. He didn’t remember exactly how he got there but Roberts ended up on the ground and off the trail, with the bear “swatting at me like dogs do with their front paws when playing with another dog.”

Reid Roberts (L) and dog Pacer. © Vancouver Sun/Facebook Reid Roberts (L) and dog Pacer.

Roberts kicked at her while he was on his back while Pacer came at her, “barking and biting.”

The bear briefly went after Pacer but turned quickly back on Roberts who vaguely recalled moving behind a clump of willows looking for any protection. It didn’t help as the bear simply went right through and put Roberts on his back for a second time.

Luckily, that second attack lasted only seconds. “Pacer was on her just as fast, biting at her,” Roberts said. “This time she took off hard after him, but I knew he would outrun her.”

Roberts quickly got up and saw blood gushing from his hand but no other obvious injuries.

“I knew my cut was bad but otherwise I was fine,” Roberts said.

He wrapped his hand in the bottom of his shirt. and as he watched her chase Pacer down the road, he tried shimmying up a nearby tree, anticipating she would return. He was unable to get up the tree — it had no branches big enough to hang onto — but she didn’t come back.

Roberts used his cellphone to call fellow ultra-marathoner Jeff Hunter, ” thinking that if I went into shock or passed out he would be able to find me and help the rescue.”

But the call went to voicemail and Roberts could only leave a message.

Next, he remembered his GPS watch timer was still on, so he paused it to end the run. Then he called 911.

Roberts found himself having to explain multiple times where he was and what parking lot he was walking too, complicated by the fact he had to walk down the trail in the same direction the bear had taken off after Pacer.

“I also remember telling the 911 dispatcher that I need to hang up so I can get the mosquitoes off of me since I only had one hand to use,” Roberts said. “I had been yelling so much that I went hoarse, so the dispatcher thought I was a woman.”

He got to the parking lot, calling after Pacer the entire time. Two people who had walked out on the Shane Lake trail saw Roberts, his face and legs covered in blood from the punctured hand.

The ambulance was on its way but Roberts didn’t want to leave until Pacer had been found. Fortunately, Hunter showed up at the same time as the paramedics and told him Pacer had run to his house, about two kilometres away.

As the police, who had arrived just before the ambulance, had started to wrap his hand, Roberts found himself going into shock and was beginning to pass out when Hunter told him the news.

Roberts ended up with 16 stitches around and up his thumb and some minor claw marks on his stomach and arm. His shorts were also ripped to shreds but not his shirt and suspects the injury to his hand came from one of the bear’s claws, not her teeth.

“There was never any pain. I never had pain until I was walking out … and then there was severe pain,” Roberts said.

Roberts’ passion is long-distance running. His achievements as an ultra-marathoner include an eighth-place finish in the 125-kilometre Canadian Death Race based in Grande Cache, Alta. and he plans on participating in a 200-kilometre event in Manning Park this August.

“I run between four and five thousand kilometres every year and 80 per cent of it is on trails, I only run on the road to get to a trail,” Roberts said. “I’m not an inexperienced trail runner and I’ve had lots of bear encounters, obviously this being the most extreme.”

Roberts had a similar encounter two years ago. There was no dog with him that time, but more significantly in Roberts’ opinion, there was a bit more distance between him and the bear on that occasion.

“The bear wasn’t threatened yet, so there was a standoff,” Roberts said. “The bear came at me, I started backing away, waving my hands, yelling, staying calm and when it started to trot towards me, I lunged at the bear like I was going to attack it and it stopped.”

As it backed away, he ran at it some more and the distance between the two grew until the bear finally fled for good.

As for this latest encounter, Roberts is convinced bringing Pacer along made no difference — the attack would have occurred regardless. “If I didn’t have my dog there, I would’ve walked right past it and the bear would’ve come out and taken me out,” Roberts said.

Indeed, he credits Pacer for getting the bear off him and is certain that if he hadn’t been attacked someone else would’ve been in the bear’s sights, noting the attack occurred only 200 metres or so from the parking lot.

“I actually feel lucky it was me,” Roberts said. “My daughter was there the day before with her Grade 2 class walking those trails.”

He’s also certain carrying bear spray would not have mattered because he wouldn’t have had the time to pull the spray out of its holster.

“By the time the bear came out on the trail, it was on me in probably five seconds. I mean, the whole thing lasted probably 30 seconds,” Roberts said.

The mother bear was later tracked down and euthanized but contrary to initial reports — and to Roberts’ relief — her two cubs, which he never saw, were not killed but rather tranquilized and taken to the Northern Lights wildlife sanctuary in Smithers.

Roberts, a teacher at D.P. Todd secondary school, will be off for at least a week as he goes through a regimen of antibiotics. As soon as he can, he will be back out on the trails.

“Next time I will make more noise more often and keep Pacer in the lead,” Roberts said.

For more Prince George news, visit the Prince George Citizen.

More from Vancouver Sun

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon