British Columbia

Prince George man survives being chased by bear into lake and attacked

Twenty-seven-year-old Brandon Lattie and a friend were walking on the trail around the Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve Wednesday evening when they had an encounter with a black bear that Lattie says left him scared for his life.

'As soon as I got hit, I just thought OK, this is where I die,' said Brandon Lattie

Lattie has scratches from the bear on his upper back and arm. (Submitted by Brandon Lattie)

Twenty-seven-year-old Brandon Lattie and a friend were walking on the trail around the Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve Wednesday evening when they had an encounter with a black bear that Lattie says left him scared for his life.

He says a  bear appeared on the trail and chased him right into the lake north of Prince George. 

"My friend started running and I was gonna hide, but I decided to run too," said Lattie. 

He wasn't able to run as fast as his friend, but he is a strong swimmer, so he went into the lake at the popular park, not expecting the bear to follow him into the water.

Lattie is happy to be alive and says he has 'lots of livin' to do.' (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"It happened so fast I couldn't even think, so that seemed like the right thing to do," Lattie told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

The water was very swampy, so he struggled to move quickly to get away from the bear. 

The swampy, muddy water made it hard for Lattie to quickly escape from the bear. (Andre Kurjata/CBC)

The bear swiped at Lattie, hitting him on his top shoulder and leaving marks on his upper back and arm. At one point, the bear pushed him underwater, he said.

"I think it was trying to hold me underwater. I was already physically tired and kind of out of breath from when I ran away and then the next thing I know I'm ... going to try to get drowned by a frickin' bear," said Lattie.

"I just remember looking above me, there was at least a foot or two of water above me. So I hit the ground and I was able to push myself back up to fight back."

The bear was about an arm's length away when he faced it and said, "You don't have to do this. You don't want to do it."

Scene from shore

Local Alana Bull had come to the park to walk the dog with her two sons, aged 10 and 11 and her mother-in-law when she saw Lattie swimming across the lake, screaming for help, with the bear less than two metres behind him.

Her mother-in-law called 911, and Bull ran with her husky shepherd to the other side of the lake to get closer.

"The dog lost his mind barking and did [exactly what he was] supposed to do and the bear got distracted," she said.

Alana Bull's husky shepherd barked at the bear and helped distract it long enough for Lattie to swim to safety. (Submitted by Alana Bull)

The bear began to swim back and forth between Lattie and the shore, and Lattie was able to continue swimming to the dock on the other side of the lake to safety. 

Once the bear was swimming away from Lattie, Bull and her dog ran back to the dock where people had gathered with blankets and were helping Lattie.

"They were just encouraging him to keep swimming. I mean there's a few of us I think ready to jump in had we needed to try and help swim out the lake, but he had it," said Bull.

Lattie is feeling really stiff and sore now, but otherwise he is unharmed.

"It could have been a whole lot worse. As soon as I got hit, I just thought 'OK, this is where I die. This is where my head gets chewed apart,'" he said. 

Lattie is happy to be alive.

"You know, I've got lots of livin' to do."

Conservation officer Steve Ackles said they are still investigating what happened, but they did put a bear down Thursday morning that was caught in a bear trap they set after the incident. He said the bear was very calm in the trap, which indicated he was habituated.

"Nothing bothered it. You know it's used to being around people," said Ackles.

The City of Prince George has temporarily closed the park while the investigation is underway. 

Listen to the segment on CBC's Radio West:

27-year-old Brandon Lattie was attacked by a bear at Ferguson Lake in Prince George this week, and wound up swimming to survive. He shares his story. 9:02

With files from Sarah Penton and Radio West


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