Play dead and you could be dead

There’s a recent incident in Campbell River where a 19-year-old played dead when a black bear emerged from a trail.

There’s a recent incident in Campbell River where a 19-year-old played dead when a black bear emerged from a trail.

The bear was walking toward the apple-carrying man who said he couldn’t remember to run or lie down when encountering a bear.

The man threw the apple, but the bear continued walking towards him even when he played dead.

The bear sniffed him from head to foot and left only when a passerby honked his car horn.You never run and you just don’t lie down when encountering a bear.

There is no simple solution to bear encounters and there could be a thousand variations dependant upon the bears personality, it’s history, sex, age, and the environment at time of the encounter.

A study started in 1964 on B.C. black bear fatalities illustrates that close to 70 per cent of all black bear fatalities were predatory by nature — in other words the bear attacked to kill to eat.

Where the sex could be determined all were males.

So if you encounter a sow with cubs and she charges, your decision to play dead may be prudent. But with males playing dead may mean real death.

Bears in general take the easiest route, they follow man made trails vs. thrashing through the brush and in the past two weeks we’ve encountered several bears on trails,.

We’ve moved off to one side and for the most part the bears have wandered by us.

In the Campbell River scenario, there was no aggressive behaviour and by playing dead and not backing off, the man enticed the bear to check him out.If he backed off and the bear continued to follow, the man could have stood his ground to alter the bear’s behaviour before it became bold and possibly predatory.

An example that comes to mind is about a grizzly tagged No. 99 in Canmore Alberta that climbed 50 feet up a tree and killed Isabelle Dube in 2005.

It wasn’t a black bear, but it’s an example of altering a bear’s behaviour.

A week earlier a woman was walking her dog and confronted bear 99, the bear turned and walked away, the woman turned and started walking when she heard a sound and turned to find the bear following 30 feet behind.

Upon confronting the bear, it turned and walked away, the woman turned and started walking, it wasn’t long before she turned once again to confront the bear only several feet away, this time she watched the bear until it was out of sight.

The same week bear 99 charged a woman who started screaming and ran, lucky for her there was a maintenance truck on the golf course. A few days later Isabelle and two friends met bear 99, her two friends left the area, Isabelle didn’t and she paid with her life.

There is no simple solution when confronting a bear, but leaving an area or backing off are the best choices if possible and if not, confront the bear — no yelling, no waving of arms, all she did was face the bear to alter its behaviour.

Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who lives in Port McNeill.