November 20, 2014 - 2:26 PM
As a taxidermist, Wilf Lloyd loves bringing hunted animals back to life, but he isn't sure he wants to stuff the grizzly bear that almost killed him.
The 55-year-old man from Cranbrook, B.C., was elk hunting last month near Fernie, B.C., when he was attacked by a towering 230-kilogram animal.
His son-in-law shot the bear seven times as it was mauling Lloyd but, in doing so, also hit Lloyd in the leg, destroying his left knee.
Lloyd underwent five surgeries in a Calgary hospital and recently returned home.
Although he'll be unable to work for several months, Lloyd says he has five grizzly carcasses in his shop that other hunters have brought him, waiting to be mounted. He's still thinking about whether he wants the bear he tangled with added to his to-do list.
"You fight it and you win," he says.
"Some days I think, 'Ya, I'd be OK. And then the next day: Do I want that reminder for the rest of my life?"
Each Thanksgiving weekend, Lloyd and his wife visit their daughter and her family in Fernie. And each time, Lloyd and his son-in-law, Skeet Podrasky, pull on their camouflage clothing, take out their rifles and go hunting.
On Oct. 14, the two men were walking in an area south of Fernie near a gravel pit where Podrasky works. Lloyd was kneeling down in some high brush to look at an old deer skull and horns, when he heard a loud thud.
"I looked up and the bear's eyes were locked on mine," recalls Lloyd.
He managed to yell, "Bear!" before the animal knocked him down and, standing on his chest, powerfully pumped its paws up and down.
"I'm yelling at Skeet: 'Shoot him! Shoot him!'"
As the bear moved to bite his face and neck, Lloyd punched his left hand down the bear's throat. The bear's mouth clamped down just before Podrasky fired his first shot at the animal.
"I could feel the vibration in his body from the bullet and his eyes rolled to the top of his head."
The bear slumped over and Lloyd screamed at his son-in-law to shoot again. Podrasky fired just as Lloyd was trying to kick the bear off his body. The bullet tore into Lloyd's left calf, up through his knee and blasted out the top of his thigh. He felt instant, burning pain.
And the bear was still on top of him, growling.
Lloyd shoved his other hand into the bear's throat to keep it from biting him and Podrasky fired another shot that struck the animal. It was enough to scare the bear off and it ran into the forest.
Worried it might return, Podrasky was preparing to shoot again but discovered he was out of bullets, says Lloyd. Podrasky ran around looking for Lloyd's gun, which had fallen onto the ground when the bear first knocked him down. As soon as Podrasky found it, the bear came back and charged at both men.
Lloyd says his son-in-law protectively stood over him and shot the bear three more times before it finally stopped and flopped to the ground.
But it wasn't dead yet. The bear was still roaring and Podrasky realized he was out of bullets again.
"I had two in my chest pocket," says Lloyd. "I handed them to him and he went over and shot him two more times, just to make sure."
Podrasky then called for help on his cellphone. A rescue crew soon arrived and carried Lloyd out of the bush to an ambulance. He was driven to a waiting helicopter and taken to hospital.
Lloyd says doctors are still trying to determine if he'll eventually get a prosthetic knee. For now, he's without any knee at all — his leg is straight and immobile. He uses a walker and wheelchair to get around.
He expects he'll be off work for almost a year. Friends have set up a fundraising page for him on YouCaring.com and have so far collected $26,000.
In the taxidermy business, Lloyd says he often chats with hunters and has heard stories of their bear encounters. He knows four people who have been attacked by grizzlies and lived to tell about it, including one good friend who was mauled 15 years ago.
The man lost an eye in the attack and had a metal plate put in his head. He was one of the first to send Lloyd a card in the hospital. "He said, 'We've got lots in common and lots of things to talk about, brother.'"
Lloyd says if he wants to keep the grizzly, he'll have to apply to wildlife officials. And although he's not yet sure if he ever wants to see the animal again, he's certain he'll continue hunting when he's able.
"We live in grizzly country and all of us hunters, we have risk reward, I guess ... I'm not going to let the bear destroy something that I'm passionate about."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014