Manitoba

Spaghetti-stealing bear breaks up lunch, alters Israeli girl's career plans

A black bear in Manitoba's Whiteshell frightened a family before stealing their spaghetti lunch and changing the direction of a young girl's career plans.

Family living in Canada for 3 years is going home to Israel with a true Canadian story

Michal Schaap Fogler, middle, poses with her family during their day trip to The Whiteshell on July 15. (Michal Schaap Fogler)

A black bear in Manitoba's Whiteshell frightened a family before stealing their spaghetti lunch and changing the direction of a young girl's future profession.

Michal Schaap Fogler, her husband Ohad and their three children took a day trip to Whiteshell Provincial Park earlier this month to paddle through the Caddy Lake rock tunnels.

The family from Israel has lived in Winnipeg for three years — Schaap Fogler is a retinal surgeon who's been on a fellowship — but will return to the Middle East in two weeks. They've been trying to take in as much outdoor Canadiana as possible during their stay.

They got more than they bargained for on July 15.

Once they had passed through the tunnels, they crossed into a shallower area and the rocky shoreline where people tend to take a break. 

Schaap Fogler says there were a number of other people there, some on shore and others in boats. While her husband secured the boat, she took their daughters — Nurit, 11, Lilach, 9 — and son Ofer, 4, ashore to eat.

Schaap Fogler sat across from Lilach while the kids ate cold spaghetti, something she laughed about while recalling the day.

"It was just plain, that's what they eat," she said. "They don't like sandwiches. I didn't even cook it there or anything. There was no smell."

That's when Schaap Fogler glanced up at Lilach and went cold herself.

"I can't believe it," she recalled. "I see a bear just behind her, like a metre away and approaching. He came very quietly, just walking. I started telling them, 'Don't panic but we have to leave now.'"

A black bear, like the one pictured, took a spaghetti lunch from Michal Schaap Fogler's family in Whiteshell Provincial Park. (Casey Brown/Flickr)

However, Lilach didn't hear because there was another sound in her ear: The bear was about a half-metre away and snorting just above her shoulder.

"She turns around, he's in her face, and she screams right in his face," Schaap Fogler said. "Then she runs the fastest I've ever seen to the boat."

That triggered Nurit's run while Schaap Fogler scooped up Ofer and chased after the two girls. 

Schaap Fogler's husband, who looked up when Lilach screamed, quickly brought the boat close to shore for everyone to get in.

He was just screaming from the boat that he wants his spaghetti back. He wanted us to paddle back, go confront the bear and get his spaghetti back.- Michal Schaap Fogler

The family paddled out and watched the bear chow down on the spaghetti before it ran off as the other people began screaming at him.

"But then he came back and ate the rest of it." Schaap Fogler said.

The other people in the area asked whether Schaap Fogler's family was OK. Other than rattled, they were unharmed, she says.

Nurit then noticed other people on the opposite shore, which is linked by the rocky landscape above the tunnel.

"She started screaming to them, 'There's a bear, get into your boat.' And like 10 seconds later he came to their spot," Schaap Fogler said.

The family wanted to return through the tunnel but was afraid to do so because the bear was "lurking" near the entrance, Schaap Fogler said.

"So we waited for about 20 minutes until he backed off and then we went," she said, adding it didn't occur to them to get a photo. "We we're just like, can't believe we're alive."

Well, not all of them were thinking that. Ofer was fixated on something else.

"He was just screaming from the boat that he wants his spaghetti back. He wanted us to paddle back, go confront the bear and get his spaghetti back," Schaap Fogler said. "He's not into sharing."

If they can move to Canada without knowing any English and go to a school here, they can overcome one bear.- Michal Schaap Fogler

Nurit happened to bring her spaghetti with her when she ran from the shore. She offered it to her brother but Ofer wanted none of that.

"He said 'I want mine. I want the one the bear has,'" Schaap Fogler said.

She didn't report the incident to a conservation officer because she figured it wasn't anything unusual for the average Canadian.

"I thought, 'This is Canada, this is probably what happens.' I thought everybody that goes to outdoors meets a bear," she said.

"Then when I came to work and told people that story, they were like, 'No, we've never seen a bear, especially that close.'"

Six days after her family's experience, Schaap Fogler heard about an eight-year-old girl who had her face scratched by a black bear at campsite not far from Caddy Lake.

The bear swiped the tent, cutting the girl's face. Then it attempted to get the family's food barrel, which was hanging from a nearby tree. 

"My guess is it's the same bear because it sounds like it, he gets too close to humans," Schaap Fogler said.

She was concerned her kids would have been scarred from their incident, afraid to venture into the woods anymore. Instead, it's had the opposite effect for Lilach.

She always told the family she was going to be a doctor, but now she wants to be a veterinarian "because she wants to save animals," Schaap Fogler said.

Talking about the bear, Lilach told her mom, "He didn't mean to [scare us]. He was just hungry.'"

It made her realize the resiliency of her children. Ironically, they had recently bought T-shirts during a trip to Banff, Alta., showing a black bear sitting by a table asking "What's for lunch?"

Lilach and her sister, Nurit, don't intend to stop wearing their black bear shirts just because of an encounter in Whiteshell Provincial Park. (Michal Schaap Fogler)

"I told them, 'You probably don't want to wear those anymore.' They said, 'No, this is not going to discourage us,' and they wore them the next week when we went to another lake," Schaap Fogler said.

"If they can move to Canada without knowing any English and go to a school here, they can overcome one bear."

There was a deer incident, too.

On the drive to the Whiteshell a deer collided with their car, which is now in the body shop for repairs.

"It wasn't a lucky day," Schaap Fogler said, adding that Ofer's name in Hebrew means "young deer" and that has made her think about changing it.

"We don't want any bears or deer in our family."​

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca