Silviculture worker attacked by Grizzly Bear

Safety Alert Type: 
Planning and Engineering
Location: 
East Kootenays (between Fernie and Sparwood)
Date of Incident / Close Call: 
2011-08-15
Company Name: 
Tembec
Details of Incident / Close Call: 

It was late in the morning when a contract worker undertaking a silviculture survey was confronted and attacked by a Grizzly bear. The worker was confident that the attack was a defensive move by the female bear to protect its cubs.

The worker was in the process of locating his plot center when he heard savage grunting and a loud, thunderous crashing coming at him. The immediate surrounding area was obscured by a moderate cover of alder and the bear just suddenly appeared in front of him and was in full stride rapidly approaching. Fortunately, a patch of alder was between the worker and the bear, slowing down its progress allowing him enough time to raise his shovel and strike the bear’s nose and face. As he proceeded to step back from the bear, using the shovel to defend himself, the worker stumbled, lost his balance and fell to the ground losing his grip on the shovel. He then positioned himself and kicked out at the still approaching bear and managed to kick it once in the face before it bit down on the sole of his work boot. He managed to roll his foot and the bear released its grip; no injury was sustained, only damage to his footwear.

It was at this time that the bear turned its attention to the cubs to make sure they were fleeing the area. When the Grizzly turned its attention back to the worker, he had managed to get up, position himself behind a stump and retrieve his pepper spray from the holster on his hip. The Grizzly backed off and retreated from the area with its cubs; the use of the pepper spray was not required.

Learnings and Suggestions: 

During the investigation, it was mentioned, and later confirmed, that a trapper in the local area had also been confronted by what appears to be the same Grizzly bear. One such confrontation occurred while he was riding his 4-Trac vehicle; there were also concerns with the same bear breaking into his cabin searching for food.

The late wet spring and sudden onset of hot weather has resulted in a very poor wild berry year and food sources are diminished, resulting in bears searching for other food sources. That in combination with the sow protecting her cubs was more than likely the reason for the ‘defensive’ attack that occurred.

Recommendations included:

1. Immediately notify Conservation Officers of the incident including those of the trapper advising of the potential for an aggressive Grizzly bear in the area of the attack.

2. Issue Safety Alert to all Tembec Operations and Contractors.

3. As natural food sources are diminished, the Grizzly may have been be staying in the local area of where trappers' cabins are located, looking for any available food sources. When reporting the incident, inquire with Conservation Officers as to locations of any trappers' cabins so they can be entered into GIS mapping so forestry workers are aware of those locations.

4. Remind workers to observe for signs of bears and make their presence known by creating noise as they are cruising their work areas; air horns were purchased for the crew workers to utilize as the noise carries over a greater distance.

Danger lurks around every corner. Always be aware of the potential risk to personal safety for every work task undertaken and “Take Two To Think It Through”.

For more information on this submitted alert: 

Ron Pachkowsky, Tembec BC ron.pachkowsky@tembec.com

File attachments
Silviculture Worker Attacked by Grizzly Bear.pdf
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