Sask. woman fights off black bear during routine dog walk

A Saskatchewan woman says it was both her scariest and her luckiest day — she fought off a black bear after it bit her on the leg during an afternoon walk.

Conservation officers warning others that bears are awake and on the move

Raschel Zeschuk, 40, got six stitches and a series of rabies shots but feels very lucky. (Submitted by Raschel Zeschuk)

A Saskatchewan woman says it was both her scariest and her luckiest day — she fought off a black bear after it bit her on the leg during an afternoon walk.

Raschel Zeschuk lives in Paradise Hill, northeast of Lloydminster, and goes on daily walks with her two dogs.

But on April 21 the walk was anything but routine. 

Zeschuk had just reached the end point of her usual route and turned around to return home when she heard rustling behind her.

"I glanced back and about five to 10 feet behind me was my dog running towards me," she said. Behind her dog was a black bear in hot pursuit.

Black bears, like this one seen in Jasper National Park, are waking up from hibernation and looking for food in the spring. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

She says she started to scream in an effort to scare the bear off and looked around for higher ground.

"All I could kind of think of was, 'Get up on something,'" Zeschuk said. She began running towards some poplar trees which had fallen over in the bush. 

"The bear immediately turned away from my dog and started chasing me," Zeschuk said.

"It caught up to me pretty fast."

Kicks bear in nose

The bear grabbed her leg, scratching it on one side and biting it on the other.

Zeschuk scrambled up on the poplar tree, which gave way and she fell backwards.

"This is where it's kind of hazy," she said.

It caught up to me pretty fast.-Raschel Zeschuk

Her dog, Cosmo, began barking and Zeschuk had time to scramble back up on the tree.

"It started trying to climb up after me and that's when I kicked it in the nose as hard as I could and it ran off," she said.

Zeschuk says she then ran home as quickly as she could.

She has six stitches in her leg and is getting her last rabies shot today. 

Zeschuk says she loves hiking and is working with someone to overcome her anxiety about future walks, given her recent experience.

Mostly she just feels very grateful. 
Hula and Cosmo, both Bernese Mountain Dogs, were on the walk with Zeschuk. The bear followed Cosmo back from the bush. (Submitted by Raschel Zeschuk)

Environment officials in Saskatchewan are warning others in light of the incident.

Rich Hildebrand, a conservation officer in Prince Albert, says luckily such encounters are rare.

He says if you see a bear it is best to calmly back away and speak in low tones without looking at the bear.

If the bear attacks, fight back and defend yourself. Do not "play dead" with a black bear.

-with files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky


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