A hiker who was injured by a polar bear in a remote national park in northern Labrador has been flown to a Quebec trauma centre for treatment, Parks Canada says.
Matt Dyer, a prominent legal aid lawyer from Portland, Maine, was with seven other hikers with the Sierra Club on Wednesday in Torngat Mountains National Park when he was attacked by the bear.
Peter Deering, with Parks Canada, said they got the call from the RCMP that someone in the park had been attacked.
According to Deering, Dyer was alone in his tent, and the group woke up to the attack at around 1:30 a.m. AT.
"At that time, we had a helicopter stationed at the Torngat Mountains base camp … so we dispatched the helicopter from there with a medic and a Parks Canada staff person. They travelled to the scene, and at that point found the party," Deering said.
"As it happened, the party included a doctor, so the doctor had already, to a degree, treated the injured gentleman. We then transported the gentleman back to the Torngat Mountains base camp."
Deering said Dyer was then transferred to a medical facility in Quebec, and then to Montreal General Hospital, where he is recovering in an intensive care unit.
According to Deering, when Parks Canada dispatched the helicopter to respond to the call, they also sent a boat to pick up the rest of the party.
Deering said that none of the other members of the group were injured and they are now making their way to Montreal.
Bear guard not mandatory
Deering said Parks Canada recommends an armed polar bear guard for anyone entering the park, but it isn't mandatory to hire one.
"There are no regulations — what we do for groups that wish to travel in the Torngat Mountains National Park is when they register with us, we provide a safety briefing, we provide a specific video that demonstrates polar bear behaviour and how to avoid encounters, number one, but what to do in the event of an encounter. The other thing we do is we strongly recommend that they take an armed Inuit polar bear guard with them," Deering said.
The guards are hired through the Nunatsiavut base camp set up in the park.
"In the Torngat Mountains, polar bears are commonly seen, they're commonly encountered. Chances are, if you travel in the park, you are going to encounter a bear, and we make that very clear to those who wish to travel there."
Deering said the group was facilitated by an outfitter in northern Quebec, where they first entered the park, but they would have received the same briefing if they went through the base camp.
Torngat Mountains National Park was founded in 2005 and covers much of the northern tip of Labrador.