Last month, a Saskatchewan woman’s daily dog walk turned out to be anything but routine.
On April 21, Paradise Hill resident Raschel Zeschuk was walking her usual route through the woods with her two dogs. She was just about to turn around and head home, when she glanced back to see one of her dogs running toward her, with a black bear close behind. She started to scream, but it didn’t faze the bear.
Her next thought was to look for higher ground, but when she began running toward some fallen poplar trees, she stole the bear’s attention.
“The bear immediately turned away from my dog and started chasing me,” she told CBC News.
It almost immediately caught up to her, scratching one side of her leg and biting the other.
She tried to get up on the poplar tree, but when she climbed up, it gave way and she fell backwards.
After that, Zeschuk told CBC that things got a little blurry. She does know that when her dog Cosmo started barking, she got free and tried to scramble back up the tree.
When the bear started to follow her, she kicked it in the nose, causing the bruin to take off in the other direction.
Although attacks like these are rare, there is evidence that off-leash dogs can be a safety hazard in bear country. According to Steven Herrero, a world-renowned bear researcher at the University of Calgary, bears and dogs are “long-evolved competitors.”
He and another researcher evaluated 92 North American bear attacks, which occurred over the course of five years. More than half of those attacks involved dogs, especially ones who were loose.
It also didn’t help that Zeschuk tried to run. If you ever encounter a bear, it’s best to just back away slowly and speak to it in a deep voice, always keeping the bear in view, but not making direct eye contact with it.
Luckily, Zeschuk made it home safely, but she did have to get six stitches put in her leg and is now getting vaccinated against rabies as a precautionary measure. She’s also working with someone to overcome her anxiety about future hikes, because it’s not something she wants to give up.