Saturday, October 17, 2009

B.C. hunters on the mend after grizzly bear attack

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Jeff Hebert was just about to cap off day three of a hunting trip in British Columbia's East Kootenay region when he heard unmistakable huffing and puffing outside the tent he and a friend were occupying.

Within seconds, Hebert was trying desperately to load his rifle as a grizzly bear chomped down on him and hunting buddy Ken Scown and tossed them around like rag dolls.

"Everything's going through your mind from is this it, am I going to be seeing my kids, to where's the bear," Hebert, a resident of Nelson, B.C., said in an interview.

"You're trying to manage what your right and your left hand are doing because they're doing two totally different things, trying to chamber a round in one hand and trying to push the bear off your friend with the other."

Hebert and Scown were inside their tent in the Canal Flats, in the province's southeast corner, when the unprovoked attack occurred Wednesday night.

Scown had just turned in for the evening and Hebert was finishing up his book when the hunting veterans experienced the most harrowing minute of their lives.

"I heard the animal charge. There was no warning, there wasn't anything before the charge, it was just the sound of something heavy running at the tent and making the huffing sound as it was coming with each step," Hebert recounted.

"It was quite terrifying."

Hebert reached for his rifle but in the heat of the moment wasn't able to properly load the weapon.

"It only takes half a second to cycle a round into the magazine but I didn't have enough time," he said.

"Then she just hit the tent and levelled both of us and basically started thrashing and biting and she was on my buddy more than she was on me but she was tossing me around in the process of mauling him."

Hebert and Scown did their best to yell at the grizzly and push it away. Then, just as quickly as it had attacked, the bear ran off.

"We were basically fighting against it and then all of a sudden it just stopped and it just left," he said.

Both men received bloody wounds to their forearms and Scown also took a bite to the leg.

"I'm not too bad," Scown said when reached at home.

"I've got a pretty sore arm where she bit my right forearm here. My leg's pretty good, small puncture wound."

Hebert said he too is feeling just fine.

Rather than wait for daylight following the attack, the men chose to march nearly five kilometres back to their vehicle in the dark.

During that trek, Hebert says it became clear how the bear found them.

"There was snow all over the road so we could basically read it like a book," he said, adding that the bear followed their tracks directly to the tent.

Both Hebert and Scown say they have no plans to give up hunting. In fact, Scown plans to head back out as soon as his wounds heal up.

But he concedes that his next overnight trip might come with a few anxious moments.

"Going back into a tent the first couple of nights will probably be a bit sketchy," he said.

"I have too much of a passion. I've been doing this since I was a little boy."

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