West Kootenay jogger spends 2 hours up tree as bear prowls below - InfoNews

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West Kootenay jogger spends 2 hours up tree as bear prowls below

A black bear is seen in this undated WildSafeBC photo.
May 27, 2020 - 2:30 PM

A West Kootenay jogger is lucky to be in one piece after he spent two hours stuck-up a tree following a run-in with an aggressive black bear.

Francis Levasseur was jogging on a remote trail outside of Hills, a small community 30 kilometres southeast of Nakusp, when he encountered the black bear.

According to a Valhalla Wilderness Society media release, May 26, Levasseur spent two hours up the small tree while the large predaceous black bear patrolled below. Just before it got dark, neighbour Mat Phillips, who happened to be the head of the Hills Emergency Services Society, heard yells from outside his nearby farm, grabbed bear spray, a machete and his dog, and rescued Levasseur.

"I am so grateful to Mr. Phillips for rescuing me. I could have died. I will never go out in the bush again without bear spray," Levasseur said in the release.

The black bear, which would normally eat a vegetarian diet in springtime, charged him from 100 metres away after he yelled and waved a stick in the air, the release said. He managed to climb up a small tree and the bear climbed a nearby tree and very nearly grabbed him. At one point the bear pretended to leave and he climbed down, only for the bear to reappear and try to get him again.

Following the incident bear biologist Wayne McCrory investigated the site and found no animal carcasses that the bear may have been feeding on or cubs in the area. Due to these factors, the biologist determined the black bear had pursued Levasseur as a predator. The occurrence is extremely rare and there have only been 56 people killed in North America by predaceous black bears since 1900.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service and the RCMP were both called and the trails have since been closed. However, the black bear was not located.

Makeshift closed signs were put up on the trail but as the incident happened over the Victoria Day long weekend the trail could not be officially closed, as this has to be done by the official trail authority, Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.

A letter has since been sent to the provincial government requesting it give the Conservation Officer Service legal authority to close Crown lands when a serious bear or other wildlife issue threatens public safety.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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