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Bear expert says B.C. attack on family was likely a rare 'predaceous' incident

VANCOUVER — An expert in bear behaviour says an attack on a family in northeastern British Columbia that left two women with critical injuries appears to have been a rare example of a "predaceous" attack by a black bear.
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Black bears walk across the road near Lake Louise, Alberta, in June, 2020. An expert in bear behaviour says an attack on a family in northeastern B.C. that left two women with critical injuries appears to have been a rare example of a predacious attack by a black bear. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER — An expert in bear behaviour says an attack on a family in northeastern British Columbia that left two women with critical injuries appears to have been a rare example of a "predaceous" attack by a black bear.

Ellie Lamb, director of community outreach for the Get Bear Smart Society, said that by knocking down the women near Dawson Creek Monday night then staying close by them for more than an hour, the large boar bear was likely treating humans as food.

RCMP said they shot the bear dead after it was observed "guarding" the injured women, aged 30 and 48, and could not be chased off.

Lamb, a wildlife guide who serves on several B.C. advisory bodies related to human-bear interaction, said bears could exhibit predatory behaviour towards humans if improperly managed at a young age, but this was extremely uncommon.

In a "food-based situation," a bear would be "unwilling to give it up easily," said Lamb.

"They would stand guard to make sure they don’t lose this food-based situation to another animal.” 

She said officers were left with no option but to kill the bear involved in Monday's attack on Bear Mountain.

However, in most human-bear encounters, bears usually yield, said Lamb. 

She said that people approached by a bear should not run. Instead, they should get bear spray ready, stand their ground and fight for space by firmly telling the bear to back off. If the bear continues to advance, the spray should be used, she said.

Two GoFundMe pages have been set up to raise money for women said by organizers to be the victims of the attack.

One page says a woman in Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital is in critical condition. The other says a woman in intensive care in Vancouver risks losing her left arm and has suffered multiple other lacerations.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service said it would release an update on its investigation into the attack, which also left a teenage boy injured.

Cpl. Madonna Saunderson of RCMP North District said details of the victims' condition would not be released by police. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 5, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Nono Shen, The Canadian Press

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