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Nick's story

Bear attacks are rare, but they do happen


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One of the wonderful aspects of life in British Columbia is seeing the great love that people here have for the beautiful outdoors; spending hours working or playing on trails and camping in far-flung regions. If we look at the statistics about black bear attacks, then it is true that you are unlikely to be a victim. But, as a Montreal neighbour of mine who happened to be the CEO of a major Canadian bank, said at the time, "When you are the one in 400,000, then statistics mean nothing."

If you are out in the wild, or even in your local campsite, are you prepared, with some kind of weapon and with a plan, to defend yourself or your children? Most of us are quite certain that we would fight to the death for our child, but what if your body freezes, or what if you just don't have the physical strength? As the mother of one of the girls who was with Kelly said: "There was no Mike out there with our daughters."

And any attack unfolds with its own set of particular circumstances.

Conventional wisdom tells us that fighting back hard is the best thing to do, but in Nick's case Dan Strickland points out that because Nick was asleep and therefore confused when he woke up, he didn't resist, and the bear didn't have to swat him to keep him in his grasp.

In Mike's case, having the knife and the headlamp in his tent were the first items that allowed this rescue to be successful. Having a very long-handled item, such as the canoe paddle, close at hand allowed him to strike the animal without having to get as close as he would have had to if he had used something like mace.

I sometimes advise friends who camp to take a golf club with them to keep in their tents - a strong hard weapon that could be a lifesaver. I have to admit that I don't think anyone has ever followed this advice. Another factor which helped make this a successful rescue was the instinctive and spontaneous way that Mike and Michelle worked together, with her evacuating the seven other boys, and Mike going after Nick and the bear.

Do you have a plan worked out that you could follow if you were in an emergency situation? If you love the wild and you camp or hike, it makes sense to practice a plan of some kind so that critical moments don't slip away when every second counts. And importantly, one of the things missing from Nick's rescue was any sort of appropriate communication device. If you have a child at camp anywhere - please make sure that their counsellors have whatever device they need to call for help.