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FORT NELSON, B.C. — A bear attack that occurred in September southwest of Fort Nelson was classified as a defensive attack, according to the BC Conservation Officer Service (BC COS).

Due to confidentiality reasons, the name of the victim was not released.

On September 17th, the BC COS received a report through the Northern Rockies RCMP of a grizzly bear attack that occurred near the Tuchodi and Muskwa Rivers, southwest of Fort Nelson, according to Anthony Eagles, Sergeant of the North Peace Zone with the Conservation Officer Service.

“It was my understanding the contact was made via a satellite message device, and then the conservation officer service became aware shortly after the RCMP learned of the situation,” he said.

Eagles reportedly became aware of the situation between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on September 17th.

He says at this time, the subject was in stable condition and in the process of being evacuated from the location.

Shortly after the attack, the bear left the area, and the victim was transported via jet boat, where search and rescue met them on a river to bring the victim to the Fort Nelson Airport.

Eagles spoke with the victim at the airport, where he took a statement.

He says the victim told him that the bear “bluff charged” him before running back into the bush line. A sow and three cubs then came running out of the tree line and attacked the individual, who sustained severe injuries.

A couple of warning shots were fired by another individual from the river’s shore, and the bear immediately left the area, Eagles said.

He says the victim was then transported to the Vancouver Hospital and the BC COS obtained three more witness statements.

“From what we’ve determined that there was a sow that was protecting its young of the year, so it was a defensive attack, and it was likely a surprise incident,” Eagles explained.

“The circumstances that we were presented with fit the general description of what we would call a defensive attack, especially with the bear not immediately coming back constantly to the area. The grizzly bear left the area immediately and hasn’t been seen since the attack occurred.”

Dwight Yochim, the senior manager with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association says using a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon (PLB) is not as easy as calling 911.

“There’s a whole chain of events that happens to the point where someone’s actually activated to go out and do it,” he said.

Yochim explains that when a PLB is activated, a signal goes to a satellite, and the signal is a location.

That signal then goes down to a central location, and “it says ‘hey, we’ve got a personal locator beacon that’s activated.'”

He says sometimes the information shared is very sparse; all it says is that it’s been activated and the GPS location.

The central location then needs to figure out where the GPS location is, including which country it’s in because it is worldwide.

Then, the information is sent to a location in that country, Yochim used Canada as an example, and this location may not be in the right province, so they have to narrow it down further.

Once they find out which province it’s in, they can then send it to the office in the right province, says Yochim.

That is when they can narrow down the information to the closest RCMP detachment, which will then be notified, and the RCMP will then decide who to dispatch and notify.

Depending on how remote the location is, it may take time for them to arrive as well, and depending on the location and weather conditions, the location may not be 100 per cent accurate.

“It’s great that you’re enjoying the outdoors. The further you get into the wilderness, the more you have to rely on yourself, at least for the first couple of hours, to allow emergency people to get to you,” he said.

Finally, Yochim says helicopter services must have federal approval for night vision travel.

“That’s extremely heavily regulated technology to have. You’ve got to have special approval from the Department of National Defense,” he explained.

“A lot of helicopters have a rule that they can’t be in the air half an hour before sunset because most of them do not have night vision.”

The next option following air travel is a ground travel search team, Yochim says, and search and rescue have multiple options to get to the subject.

Yochim adds that calling 911 does not work on a satellite phone, and users will have to call 1-800-663-3456 instead for emergency assistance.

Vancouver Coastal Health Authority was contacted but, due to patient confidentiality, could not provide any comment.

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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.