British Columbia

B.C. grizzly bear attack triggered by man's dogs

The family of a man who survived a violent grizzly bear encounter on B.C.'s central coast believes his dogs might have provoked the bear's attack.
A 51-year-old man is recovering in hospital after being attacked by a grizzly bear on B.C.'s Central Coast, the CBC's Stephen Smart reports 2:02

The family of a man who survived a violent grizzly bear encounter on B.C.'s central coast believes his dogs might have provoked the bear's attack.

John Johnson — recovering from serious injuries in Victoria hospital — was picking berries in the remote community of Oweekeno on B.C.'s central coast Monday morning when he was set upon by a mother grizzly who was foraging with her two cubs.

"[John] had two dogs with him," said his brother Glen Johnson, who travelled to Victoria Tuesday. "The dogs were the ones that chased [the bears] towards him… The bears were agitated by the dogs and I guess they turned on him."

Johnson, 51, suffered a torn scalp, a broken arm and many lacerations and bites. Despite his extensive injuries and blood loss, he walked nearly a kilometre before finding a residence, where he found help.

He was transported the nearly 500 kilometres by air ambulance to Victoria Monday night, where he underwent surgery to clean and close his wounds..

"He was full of tubes last night and this morning those tubes have been removed," said Jacqueline Hunt, Johnson's niece. "He is awake and responding and talking to us."

Bear country

The central coast area is bear country, but the decline of salmon runs over the past decade has left food in short supply, leading to more interaction between hungry animals and humans, locals say.

John Johnson believed he was a friend of bears, said his niece, Crystal Johnson. ((CBC))
But Johnson seemed to feel the bears would leave him alone.

"He used to say that they're like his friends because he could walk right past one," said niece Crystal Johnson. "This is the first time that anything like that has happened."

Doctors expect Johnson will have to stay in hospital for two to three weeks.

"I think he's a little shaken up," said Crystal Johnson. "But I don't think it'll take him away from what he loves to do."

Attack to be investigated

Doug Forsdick, an inspector with the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service, said six members of a predator-attack team are expected to begin an investigation into the attack as soon as they arrive in Oweekeno.

Grizzly bears are much larger and more aggressive than the more common black bears, and humans often do not survive an encounter with a grizzly. But all bears are potentially dangerous, especially when travelling with their young.

A 72-year-old Lillooet woman was killed Thursday  by at least one black bear just outside her home.

She was the third person to die in a black bear attack in B.C. since 2000.

With files from the CBC's Stephen Smart and The Canadian Press