A man who was nearly drowned by a black bear that leaped into the swampy shallows of a Canadian lake after him, has described how he pleaded with the bear as he fought to stay above the surface, and to stay alive.
Brandon Lattie, 27, might not be alive to tell the tale if it weren’t for a bear-hating dog.
Lattie, told CBC that he was on the trail around Ferguson Lake in British Columbia on Sept. 4 when a bear appeared on the trail.
“My friend started running and I was gonna hide, but I decided to run too,” he said.
As his friend, more fleet of foot, pulled ahead, Lattie, who is a strong swimmer, decided to take his chances in the water, jumping into the lake.
But the bear followed, catching up with him as he struggled in the swampy water, swiping him on his top shoulder and leaving marks on his upper back and arm.
Lattie, by now physically exhausted and already out of breath, began to be pushed underwater by the bear.
“I think it was trying to hold me underwater,” said Lattie. “I just remember looking above me, there was at least a foot or two of water above me. So I hit the ground and I was able to push myself back up to fight back.”
When he got free, Lattie said he spoke to the bear.
Lattie told KCN. “The bear looked startled when I turned around and looked it dead in the face. I tried talking to it at first saying that ‘you don’t have to do this.’”
Lattie began to swim towards the middle of the lake, with the bear in pursuit, aiming for the dock on the other side.
But unknown to Lattie, help was already at hand.
A woman walking on the lakeside, Alana Bull, had heard his screams for help and seen the bear push him underwater.
She ran down the trail along the lake, hoping her dog, a large husky shepherd with a hatred for bears, would distract it, and draw the bear off.
Writing about the experience on Facebook, Alana Bull said, “I ran my dog Musket down the trail with me as fast as we could. I knew he would distract the bear from a safe distance and hopefully, the man could get away.”
When they reached the other side of the lake, her dog caught the bear’s scent and began to bark.
“The bear was distracted! He started to turn around and swim away from the man back towards shore and towards the barking,” she said.
In the meantime, Lattie had made it to the shore.
Ferguson Lake Nature Reserve is located about 300 miles north of Vancouver.
Lattie’s mother, Laurel, said she is also very thankful to Alana Bull and hopes to meet her one day.
“How do you thank someone for saving your son’s life?” she said, according to KCN. “We’re planning on getting the dog lots of treats.”
Lattie believes a higher power was looking over him.
“I’m just glad to be alive,” he said.
Dogs and Bears
But whilst a dog may have saved the day in this bear attack, they can sometimes complicate a bear encounter. A bear can often become aggressive toward a dog which can turn back and run directly to its owner with a charging bear in tow.
Catherine Sweatt-Mueller, 62, was staying on the family-owned island in Rainy Lake that straddles the Canadian border in northern Minnesota for a family reunion, according to the Star Tribune.
On the evening of Sunday, Sept. 1. she went outside when her two dogs started to bark, according to Ontario Provincial Police Constable Jim Davis.
“The dogs returned, but she did not,” Davis told the New York Post. “The victim’s mother, who is 84, called police at that point because she was concerned for her daughter’s well-being.”
Searching the area, Canadian officers found a yearling bear standing over her motionless body.
“She was obviously deceased and there was one bear standing over top of her acting aggressively, so it was shot and killed by the officers,” Davis said, according to the Post.
Some Bear Facts
On average, there are around three fatal bear attacks a year in North America. Most bear attacks come from the more aggressive grizzly bear, even though the grizzly has a much narrower geographic range than the black bear.