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Bear victim sets record straight

Australian tourist says he did not taunt the bear that bit him



Will Pelling — the tourist who was bitten by a black bear in Whistler Village two weeks ago — wants to put an end to the rumours circulating on the Internet about what happened that night.

The 24-year-old Australian is spending his last weekend in Whistler calling up media outlets to let reporters know he did not provoke the bear that bit his thigh and that he would not have called the Conservation Officers had he known the animal would be shot later.

“My main point is just to make sure people understand exactly what happened and to understand that I was not teasing the bear,” Pelling said from his hotel room at the Crystal Lodge.

“I have no idea where the stories are coming from. There are comments on some websites saying, ‘If we can shoot the bear, can we shoot the Aussie?’”

Pelling said he was walking home from Maxx Fish at about 2 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, when he came across a group of 10 people standing in the Village Stroll.

“Basically, out of the blue, this small bear came from the crowd, down the stairs and past me,” recounts Pelling, who said he was separated from the group by the set of stairs.

“At the last minute, I saw it, and it saw me. I pretty much shit myself and just froze on the spot. At the same time that it bit me, it sort of half ran into me. I was basically in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The reason he did not run away from the adult male bear, said Pelling, was because it happened too fast for him to react.

After wandering back to his hotel to clean the wound, the concierge at the front desk told him he should call the Conservation Officers.

“He thought I was like on drugs or something. He said, ‘People don’t really get bitten by bears’, and I am saying, ‘Look here champ, I did,’” said Pelling.

“He decided it would be best if we called the Conservation Officers. That is when I had an interview with those guys, and they were the ones that made the decision to kill the animal.”

The Conservation Officers found the bear in the village that night but were unable to remove it. Officers shot the bear the next night at 10 p.m. near the Coast Hotel.

According to Conservation Officer Chris Doyle, officers suspect the bear had been in the village a few nights before Pelling’s incident, and had also wandered into the village during the spring.

Pelling has been alarmed by the stories he has seen on the Internet, blaming him for taunting the bear and causing the animal’s death.

“I didn’t realize the drama that it would cause. It has gotten ruinously stupid,” said Pelling.

“There are some wild stories getting around. I am pretty sure if the locals picked me out, I wouldn’t be accepted real well.”

Conservation Officers have shot about 10 bears in Whistler this year, following conflicts with humans.