B.C.'s conservation officer service has determined that three people injured by a black bear — two of whom were sent to intensive care — were victims of a "rare predatory attack."
The attack happened just after sunset on Oct. 3 when two women and two teenagers were enjoying the fall colours on the Bear Mountain Nordic Ski Association trails, about six kilometres outside the city of Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C.
Conservation officials say the adult male black bear charged the group, severely injuring one of the women. The other woman and a teenage boy were injured trying to help her. The boy was swatted by the bear but was able to leave to get help, while the other teenager was uninjured.
The Conservation Officer Service investigated the attack site and determined the attack was predatory in nature, something they say is "extremely rare."
The service also says the bear was acting alone and has been killed, with a necropsy confirming it was responsible for the attack.
'The bear chewed her up bad'
One of the victims of the attack is Leosette [Cheng] Canoy, a woman who works with disabled adults and emigrated from the Philippines about 15 years ago.
Canoy's husband, Gary Hansen, told CBC his wife loves the Canadian wilderness and often goes camping and hiking.
When the bear attacked her friend, he said, Canoy rushed in to help — resulting in a mauling that required more than six hours of surgery for injuries to her arms, head, back and ear.
"It's horrific to see my wife like that," he said. "The bear chewed her up bad."
Beyond attacking the group and knocking them down, the bear also guarded the injured women for more than an hour, preventing them from leaving the area.
Canoy is recovering in hospital in Edmonton, about 600 kilometres from Dawson Creek, while her family says her friend is in Vancouver with severe arm injuries.
Predatory black bear attacks rare
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Ellie Lamb, the director of community outreach for the Get Bear Smart Society, said the bear's reported behaviour indicates it was treating them as food.
Lamb, a wildlife guide who serves on several B.C. advisory bodies related to human-bear interaction, says bears could exhibit predatory behaviour toward humans if improperly managed at a young age, but this was extremely uncommon.
As a result, she says officers were left with no option but to kill the bear.
The Conservation Officer Service has issued a reminder to anyone visiting wildlife areas with the potential for bear encounters to carry bear spray, take along noise-making devices and watch for signs of bears in the area.