Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Dave VartyAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from Vancouver Sun

      When bear attacked, Ed Craft fought back
'I hauled off and hit him in the head'

Chris Nuttall-Smith Vancouver Sun

Monday, September 25, 2000

Forget the tranquilizer darts, the shotgun, the two-by-four or the pepper spray.

When an angry black bear grabbed hold of Ed Craft's bare legs last Thursday, the Prince George retiree fought the bear with a less conventional weapon: he balled his hand into a fist and clocked the beast full in the face.

Craft, 64, and his wife Elaine were woken around 1:30 Thursday morning by Harrison, their black lab mongrel who sleeps out in the yard. Harrison was barking like he was going crazy, Craft recalled in an interview from his home Sunday.

So the 230-lb (102-kg) former forestry worker, dressed only in his underwear, went to the door to see what was the matter.

The empty garbage cans had been strewn about the yard, and Harrison was tussling with a bear.

"I opened the door and I seen them fighting there so I holler at the dog," Craft said.

"I stamped my feet and hollered and everything else and the bear turned around and made a jump right up on the step at me. That's when he put his arms around my legs."

Craft worked for 40 years in wilderness logging camps, he said, and in that time he saw plenty of bears. But never before had he seen one attack.

Now the dog was terrified, the bear had sunk its claws into Craft's legs and the man was worried the bear might just make it past him and into the house.

What came next, Craft said, was instinct.

"I hauled off and hit him in the head."

Gary Van Spengen, a conservation officer in Prince George, said Sunday that bears often wander into the city in search of food, especially at this time of year.

"They end up getting used to easy meals from people's backyards and from people's garbages. They become food conditioned, then they start being habituated to humans," Van Spengen said.

Once that happens, he continued, conservation officers often have little choice but to kill them.

In a typical year, Van Spengen said, conservation officers kill 50 black bears in the city of Prince George alone. The trend is bound to continue this year, he said.

They killed one black bear in August, but a dwindling supply of fresh berries in the woods, combined with ripening tree fruit in town, has driven up the number for September. So far this month, said Van Spengen, conservation officers have killed eight black bears.

Provincewide, conservation officers last year killed 82 grizzlies and 1,138 black bears because of real or perceived threats to human safety.

And just last Wednesday -- a day before the attack on Craft -- a conservation officer in Kimberley shot two adult black bears and four cubs wandering around the town.

"A woman going up the stairs ran into them and got in between the mother and cubs," said Paula Rodriguez de la Vega of Kimberley's bear awareness program. "The sow huffed at her and she got out of the area quickly."

Not all who run into bears are so lucky.

Bears injured six people in B.C. last year. In 1998, grizzly attacks injured three people, and killed 65-year-old George Evanoff, who had been hiking about 70 kilometres east of his Prince George home.

And earlier this month, a grizzly attacked and seriously injured a 70-year-old hunter near McLeod Lake, about 140 km north of Prince George.

Conservation officers say the man, an experienced hunter and trapper, surprised the bear, which then attacked in self defence. Officers initially tracked the bear, but did not locate it.

Craft, the pugilist from Prince George, said the black bear he confronted did not know at first what to do when he hit it.

"He kind of whimpered there when I hit him in the head, eh?" Craft recalled. "I guess it startled him -- I don't know."

The bear backed off, Craft said, then it circled a few times, acting disoriented, and ran off into the green belt by Craft's house.

Craft said that aside from a few scratches and puncture wounds on his legs he feels fine, well enough even for a round of golf Sunday.

Conservation officers have set a trap for the bear, but so far it has not returned.

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