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A courageous Pitbull is in recovery after leaping to its owners aid when an aggressive black bear attempted to attack her, unprovoked.
On the afternoon of May 5, Ashley Gribble was walking five dogs including her Pitbull, Bane, along a popular hiking trail between Isobel Lake and McQueen Lake near Kamloops when she stumbled onto a black bear.
"As we were coming back along a pond through some trees near the far end of Isobel lake, all of a sudden a bear appeared a mere 5 feet from me,” Gribble wrote in a recount of the experience.
“Not I, or any of the dogs had heard, seen or smelled this bear. I was shocked at just how close it was.”
The bear proceeded to stalk her for 10 to 15 minutes before it left her and her four-legged friends alone.
About 25 minutes later the bear reappeared, reportedly running out of the bush right beside her, according to Rob Armstrong, BC Conservation Officer.
"I don't think that anything she did instigated the incident. I think it was a chance encounter. Unfortunately, in this case, that bear keyed in on her and/or the animals as a potential food source and that was the intent of it following her for that distance,” said Armstrong, adding that the bear had become predatory.
Gribble attempted to deter the bear’s approach with bear spray but was unsuccessful in hitting it. As she backed away she tripped over a rock and fell onto her back. She screamed for help, but no one was around.
"I can't really describe the feeling. It was a combination of terror and trying to prepare myself for a bite. When I fell and I was on the ground and the bear was lunging — in my head I was like 'no, this is happening. I'm about to be bitten by a bear, and I remember screaming help,'" Gribble explained.
"My body definitely went cold, and my heart stopped but it was also a moment of being like 'okay, I'm about to get bitten, what can I do?”
When the bear lunged toward her she was protected by her dog, Bane, who intervened and was picked up by the bear.
The bear took the dog and ran about 15 to 20-ft, with Bane almost escaping before the bear ultimately pinned it down. Gribble was in a fight or flight situation.
"For me, my dogs are similar to children and it wasn't even a decision. It just happened,” Gribble explained.
“I don't remember making a conscious decision about it, I just remember I was all of a sudden running full force at the bear just screaming.”
Gribble grabbed a nearby log and beat the bear over the head until Bane was able to get up and scurry away.
As the bear turned to her, she began to think, “that probably wasn’t the best decision.”
She described her eerily quiet stare-down with the black bear, before it finally went off in a huff and she was able to return to her vehicle and bring Bane to the vet for surgery.
Armstrong said that Gribble had done “everything right” with the exception of choosing to rescue her dog. Although he understands why she did it, driven by emotions, he said her decision to chase after the bear and fight it off put her in a great deal of risk and he would not recommend others do the same.
“But I think she handled herself well, she remained calmer than most people in a very stressful and scary situation for most people," he added.
Bane had 26 individual punctures from bites and claws and was fixed with five different drains in the recent weeks since the attack to remove the fluid. His stitches are planned to be removed next week.
Despite the injuries he suffered from his brave intervention, Gribble says all Bane wants to do is play.
"He's doing really well, he's in really good spirits . . . he's pretty much over it, he just wants to play and do his normal stuff and he can't do anything — and he's pretty bummed about that," she laughed.
The black bear, which reportedly weighed 200-lbs, has since been euthanized because of its risk to the public, which is amplified by the location it was found in.
According to Armstrong, that area is frequented by elementary schools for field trips as well as by public citizens. Gribble said some teachers and hikers have reached out to her to comment on the abnormal density of the black bear population in the area this year.
For more information on handling bear encounters, click here.