While it seems that the jogger attacked by a bear yesterday may have been saved by his dog, Conservation Service Inspector for the Omineca Region Mark West says people taking their pets into parks like Forest for the World should keep them on a leash.

“That is an area where people will typically see bears at this time of year and that’s why we encourage them to keep their dogs under control – by leashing them or a dog that can respond to commands. You’re not in control of your dog so you don’t know what your dog is doing in front of you if you don’t have eyesight contact. If the dog that you’re walking or running with is now in an encounter with a bear and you come into that situation, the bear’s going to protect itself and protect its young.”

West says if you are going to let your dog run in a park, you should be confident it will obey commands to stop or stay and keep it in sight at all times.

Although it’s always a tough decision to destroy a bear, he says things unfolded very quickly during yesterday’s incident.

“A lot of times we’re there about an hour, 2 hours after an event takes place. So we have time to talk to the people who were there, what information they can provide us and we’re able to make a more educated decision. In this case, it was very fluid. If this had been a predatory bear and we didn’t do anything about it, then we’d have a predatory bear out and about.”

West says officers weren’t able to speak to the jogger until several hours later in hospital. He says officers assessed the situation and made the decision to destroy the sow based on the information they had at the time. Given what they knew, they were able to save the cubs for rehabilitation.

“The officers on site, they made a conscious decision to capture the two cubs and take them to a rehabilitation centre because these bears are not conditioned to garbage or human attractants.”

The two young cubs will hopefully be released next year.

“Recent studies show that, if bears are given the opportunity to not have access to unnatural food sources, rehabilitation is very successful,” says Dave Bakker with the Northern Bear Awareness Society.

It’s a tricky time of year for human-bear encounters. Bears are still replenishing their fat stores after winter hibernation, sows often have young cubs and breeding season is starting.

Bakker says that, based on what he’s read about the attack, it sounds like a case of bad timing.

“It’s a combination of a bunch of events that made that happen. By the sounds of it, he’s experienced, he’s had experiences with bears while he’s out using the trail system. So I don’t see any fault. I think it was just a case of wrong place, wrong time.”

He says awareness is key when you’re in bear country and making noise if your best bet to avoid an attack.

“We always say let the bear know you’re there. Don’t rely on bells and whistles alone – use the human voice. Talk loudly, shout before you go into an area. That alerts a bear to a human presence. They don’t always equate the sound of a bell or a whistle to a human.”

Bakker says something else that people should remember is that, while bear encounters happen often, attacks are rare.

“When was the last time you heard of anything in our area like this occurring? It’s been many years. Cases like this are very, very rare and even if you look at the stats and studies throughout North America, encounters like this are few and far between.”

A recent study by Stephen Herrero, a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, found only 700 attacks by large carnivores have taken place in all of North America since the 1950s. 56% of those attacks were by coyotes or cougars; bears (black and brown) account for just 25% of attacks on people.

You can read Herrero’s full report here.