PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. — A 10-year-old critically injured girl appears to be in good spirits just two days after being mauled by a mother black bear in British Columbia, a conservation officer says.
Murray Smith of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said the girl was returning with her father and grandmother from a swim in the Coquitlam River on Saturday afternoon when the trio came across a bear with a cub, prompting the female to attack.
“I understand the integral part was (that) the grandma and the father were very aggressive with the bear and that seemed to back the bear off, to allow the child to be scooped up and taken to the hospital,” Smith said.
A spokeswoman for the B.C. Ambulance Service described the girl’s injuries at the time as critical.
Smith said Monday that the girl had suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and superficial cuts elsewhere on her body and that she’d had surgery.
“An officer attended and interviewed the family and the girl was in fairly good spirits and seemed to be on the road to recovery,” he said.
“I can only think it was very unfortunate luck on the part of this family. It could have happened to any of us. They just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”
The mother bear involved in the attack would not leave the heavily populated area in Port Coquitlam and had to be killed, but the cub is being held in a wildlife facility until it can be released back into the wild, likely in the spring, Smith said.
There are about 100,000 black bears in B.C., and of the 30,000 annual reports of bear interactions only about 10 involve conflict where a person is hurt, he said.
Encounters with black bears far outnumber those involving about 15,000 grizzly bears, which often live in more remote areas.
“Being attacked by a black bear is about on the level of being hit by lightning,” Smith said. “It’s very rare, but it happens. And we have to all consider that when we venture out into the forest.”
To avoid attacks, Smith advised that people make noise while out in the woods to avoid startling an animal. Anyone who encounters a bear should appear large by lifting both arms in the air and backing away slowly while speaking calmly.
“We’re the only animal in the forest that talks,” he said.
In the unlikely event of an attack, Smith suggested fighting back against a black bear and remaining passive or “playing dead” against a grizzly.
Smith said unsecured garbage and other smelly material is mostly to blame for drawing bears into contact with humans, a move he said could result in stiff fines.
“We’re long past the time where we need to hold people’s hands about looking after their attractants,” he said. “Everybody’s got to do their part.”
“We don’t want people like this little girl being hurt because bears have been attracted to our community.”
— By Geordon Omand in Vancouver
— Follow @gwomand on Twitter
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