Thunder Bay·Audio

Too close encounters: man escapes bear, while his dog survives possible wolverine attack

When Todd Moore of Thunder Bay, Ont., encountered a black bear in the woods, he did everything he was taught to do - he made himself big, he made noise - but the bear wasn’t deterred.

Thunder Bay man spent hour in lake to evade a black bear, his dog spent night in the bush avoiding wolverine

Todd Moore and his Labrador cross, Fred, recently survived an encounter in the wilderness with what they guess was a wolverine.
Too, two, close encounters of the wildlife kind. We hear from Todd Moore, a Thunder Bay man who came face-to-face with an overly aggressive bear. But it seems nature has got his number because a couple of weeks later he had to deal with what he believes w

When Todd Moore encountered a black bear, while out working in the bush, the Thunder Bay, Ont., man did everything he was taught to do — he made himself big, he made noise — but the bear wasn't deterred.

The bear exhibited signs of a rush— snorting, huffing, standing up on its hind legs, and Moore knew he was being sized up as prey.

Moore is no stranger to bear encounters. The owner of Moore Resource Management, which provides forestry services to companies operating in northwestern Ontario, estimates he has come face-to-face about a dozen times with the big bruins.

But he said it was "complacency" that made him go into the bush this time, armed with only a machete.

"My first thought was 'how silly'" Moore said, "only bringing a machete."

"The next thing that ran through my head was 'you dummy'  and anger at putting yourself into that situation."

"The rest of it was on the spot. What now, what now," Moore said.

"[The bear] huffed, snorted, got its shoulders up like a cat," Moore said, "and when it's doing that you're going to make sure you don't turn your back — it's a precursor to a rush."

Moore made a split-second decision: instead of waiting for the bear to pounce, he threw his backpack at his attacker, hoping to distract it, and darted into the lake.

Three feet of water, but two feet of loon poop

For the next hour, still clutching his machete, Moore waded in "three feet of water, two feet of loon poop" and watched the bear pop up out of the woods, waiting for its prey to come back to shore.

"Eventually I pulled myself up on some rocks and crawled along the shore," he said.

After that, Moore said he was "very glad" to get to his vehicle.

Fred the dog has his own adventure

After recovering from that incident, a few weeks later Moore set out to do some bush work north of Nakina, Ont., a small town about 350 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.  He was joined by his dog Fred,  a Labrador cross.

Moore said they had been walking for awhile when Fred, who was about a hundred metres away from him, darted into the thick forest and started barking.

"There's no visibility,"  said Moore, so he grabbed hold of his shotgun, fully expecting to see Fred scampering back with a mother bear chasing him.

He could hear crashing in the woods, and finally saw the dog, but there was nothing else around.

About five seconds later, a horrible smell engulfed them.

"Best I could describe it is a family of skunks, all spraying each other," Moore said.

Moore decided the best course of action was to head back to his vehicle.

"I started heading out [to the road], and all of Fred's interest was directly behind us now, and he wasn't coming with me, and he charged into the bush."

Moore couldn't see what caught Fred's attention, but he could hear the sounds of a skirmish.

"There was growls, barks, yelps, guttural pig sounds coming from it. I knew Fred was in trouble, and interacting with something. There were some pretty bad yelps coming "

"Desperately hoped" Fred had not "met his demise"

Over the next six hours, Moore eventually made it back to his truck, calling to Fred the whole way.

"For the first three hours I kept hearing yelps and barks and howls intermixed, and it would get close to me, then it would move away, so I was confused about what was going on."

Moore "desperately hoped" he would see Fred emerge from the bush, but he was met with only silence.

Concerned that friends and family would start wondering why he had been gone so long, Moore made the difficult decision to get in the jeep and drive away.  But he left his shirt at the side of the bush road, hoping if Fred made it out, he'd find the clothing and be comforted.

"It was a pretty tear-filled departure at that point. I was pretty upset."

"They were pretty bloodcurdling screams and I thought that unfortunately Fred had met his demise," Moore said.

When Moore arrived back in town he told people about losing his dog in the forest.

"Talking with people in town about the stench, the sounds, and not being able to see it, they thought it was a wolverine," Moore said.

Early the next morning, Moore returned to the site. He had brought a tarp with him, fully expecting that he was on a recovery, rather than a rescue mission.

"I wasn't sure what I was going to find of poor Fred," Moore said, "I wasn't expecting much."

"When I got there, I saw my shirt was gone, and it was real quiet," Moore said.

"I yelled 'Fred,'  and before I could even finish the sentence, Fred had jumped out of the bush right in front of me. He jumped up on me, and then was hitting the side of the jeep, ready to get in."

"He had had enough, and was ready to go."

"Somebody sending me a message"

Moore admits "the tears poured right away" at the sight of his dog.

Fred wasn't injured, and after a brief examination Moore didn't see any visible marks or wounds on the dog. But Fred was "shaken and beaten up" after the encounter.

How Fred survived the night, probably keeping a wolverine at bay for hours, remains a mystery.

"He's a little worse for wear, he's aged, and I think he was pretty busy," said Moore, who feels the event has changed his pet. 

"Fred didn't want to talk.. He's been pretty quiet since this incident."

Moore said both of the encounters have changed him as well, and reminded him of the dangers of the wild.

"I think we have a false confidence," Moore said,  "we should always be armed and approach with caution."

And after working in the woods for twenty years, Moore said it might be time to retire from the bush aspect of his consulting business.

After hearing the stories, a friend told Moore, "maybe nature is telling you 'your mileage is over, your odometer's met, you're done'."

Moore said he agrees.

"I think somebody is sending me a message, so it's time for me to step back from that."