A northern Ontario man’s near-death experience at the claws of a bear in May is prompting provincial staff to find a new way to deal with nuisance bears.
But those changes will come too late for Cochrane resident Joe Azougar, who was eating breakfast outside his cabin when he was attacked.
The bear came toward Azougar, after killing two of his chickens and his German Shepherd dog. The dog had jumped to defend its owner.
Despite Azougar’s attempt to escape, the bear caught up with him and knocked him over.
"He started chipping with his side teeth at my skull … I could feel the bones just being chipped away," he said.
Finally, two local women came to his rescue, honking the horn on their vehicle, which scared the bear away.
Azougar has returned to his computer job since the incident, but said he will require years of physiotherapy to deal with the damage caused by the attack.
'MNR needs to be responsible'
The Ministry of Natural Resources stopped relocating nuisance bears last year, saying it has gathered evidence that it’s a waste of time since relocated bears often just make their way back.
As of last summer, calls about nuisance bears go to the Ontario Provincial Police, the group that was formerly on-call for emergency bear situations.
But that was not an acceptable solution for John Vanthof, the New Democrat MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane, the region where Azougar had his bear encounter.
Vanthof raised the incident in Queen’s Park, demanding a solution from the province.
"If moving bears isn't working, then maybe the MNR needs to be responsible for doing what works with bears," he said.
The province still runs a hotline where people can call to get tips on bear safety, and says the Ministry of Natural Resources is looking into other ways to deal with nuisance bear issues.
Azougar said people still think bear attacks on human "do not happen."
"I urge you, just go on Google, click news and type in bear attack," he said. "You'll be surprised."