By NICHOLAS JOHANSEN
KELOWNA — A B.C. woman is lucky to be alive after a bear took a particular interest in her leg while she was out hiking in Conkle Lake Provincial Park.
Rachel Lautard was hiking on July 9 with her husband, two daughters, her friend Eddie Naude, and their two dogs in the park, 13 kilometres northwest of Rock Creek Saturday afternoon.
The Greenwood woman had gotten ahead of her husband and daughters and her friend Naude had jogged a little bit ahead of her, when she heard some noise coming up fast from behind.
“I turned and just had this image of a dog flashing past, and the bear charging full tilt,” Lautard said. “I jumped a couple steps off the path hoping that maybe he would go after the dog and not me, but I had so little time to think, it was so quick. I tried to get on the other side of a tree, but that was hopeless. I'm not that fast, not when compared to a charging bear.”
Within seconds, the bear had lost interest in her dog, and charged at Lautard.
“Next thing I know, I'm lying on my back and the bear's on top of me ... I got my feet up and he clamped onto my lower left leg and I just started screaming," she said.
“I was kicking as hard as I could at this bear. He had one leg in his mouth and I was bicycling my feet at him, and then the bear got distracted for a moment and got off of me.”
By this point, Naude had heard the commotion and came running back, swinging his jacket at the bear.
Naude made a run at the bear, chasing it up a tree. After a few moments, it clambered down and took off.
Lautard believes the bear was younger, about one or two years old and had been angered by the dog.
“It wasn't a very big bear, thankfully.”
After the shock of the attack wore off a little, the pair began their way back to the rest of the group.
“I just pulled my socks up over my wound and hobbled back down the trail and met my husband and daughters coming,” Lautard said. “They didn't realize anything had happened, they thought I had yelled at the dogs to get away from a bear ... they thought it was all over, but I just said 'I can't walk anymore.'”
Naude took off the down the path, jogging the five kilometres back to the campground to flag someone down for help.
He managed to get two boaters, both with electric motors, to go back and grab Lautard.
“We started going back, we ran out of battery, we had to paddle,” Lautard said. “Meanwhile Eddie had to run all the way back down ... got his truck, got a first aid kit, and he met us near the lake when we got there and cleaned up the wound with what he could.
Luckily, Naude is a doctor in Midway, and was able to tend to Lautard's wounds quickly.
“He took me to his clinic in Midway and properly cleaned and stitched it up and then took me back to the lake.”
Lautard grew up on a farm and has spent many years outdoors.
“We see bears all the time. The bears, usually when they see us, they smell the dogs, they take off in the other direction,” she said. “They run away, but be prepared for times when they don't.”
Lautard wants others to learn from her experience.
“Be prepared,” she said. “Not, 'don't go out,' but don't be complacent. Don't have your bear spray in a backpack, have it in a holster and know how to use it.”
While Lautard says the experience won't keep her away from the outdoors she loves, she says she'll avoid being out in the woods by herself from now on.