Black bear mauls Winnepeg woman

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June 27, 2003

Didn't think I would survive: bear brawler

If she played dead, knew beast would kill her

By KEVIN ENGSTROM, Winnepeg Sun

Diane James didn't think she'd survive her battle with a black bear.

As she grappled with the bear outside her Beausejour-area home Tuesday, James, 50, began to wonder what would happen if she died.

"I thought if this bear kills me the person who's going to find me was my 16-year-old son, and I wasn't about to let my son see this bear eating his mom's carcass," she said yesterday.

James suffered several injuries in the fight, including a partially-ripped scalp, a gash below her right eye, and numerous lacerations and bite marks. Nearly three hours of emergency surgery Tuesday was needed to repair the damage, James said.

'STRAIGHT AT ME'

"It was absolutely horrible. He tried to rip the scalp off my head and he did a pretty good job of it, too," she said.

James had just returned home after going grocery shopping when she saw the bear attacking one of three alpacas the family keeps on their hobby farm. James was trying to contact Manitoba Conservation officials on a cordless phone in a plea for help when the bear -- a yearling about the size of a German shepherd and weighing about 50 lbs -- saw her and attacked, she said.

"Once he saw me he came straight at me. He came so fast I was only able to take two steps back toward the house before he was on top of me," she said.

What followed was a five-minute brawl with a bear seemingly hell-bent on killing her, James said. Despite its small size, the bear knocked her over, clawing and biting at her head while she attempted to twist its nose to break free.

"He wasn't an ordinary bear," she said. "I know you're supposed to play dead if a bear attacks you, but I knew if I played dead with this bear that he would kill me."

James eventually got inside and with the bear preoccupied snuck away to her car. She drove to her neighbour's house and was taken to hospital while another neighbour returned and found the bear attacking the family's border collie.

The neighbour shot the bear dead. Its body was transported to Winnipeg Tuesday for analysis and testing for rabies, said provincial black bear manager Hank Hristienko.

The dog and an alpaca suffered minor injuries in the attack, said James. Another alpaca had to be destroyed, she said

Unprovoked attacks by black bears are rare, said Hristienko. He said people who encounter bears should avoid contact at all costs.
 


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