A lazy afternoon relaxing on the shores of Osoyoos Lake turned into sheer terror when a sow black bear attacked a woman and her dog this weekend.
Lisa Robinson, her 15-year old daughter and their golden retriever Cooper were visiting Osoyoos from Kelowna and enjoying a tranquil sunny Saturday afternoon in her parents' backyard on 81st Street around 5 p.m.
They didn't even know the bear was there until it suddenly appeared in front of them.
"The bear just jumped up onto the [retaining] wall," she said, which then caused Cooper to engage the bear. "The bear got him by the neck and just started to thrash."
Robinson screamed at her daughter to get inside.
"I had a wine glass in my hand and I threw it at the bear and it broke, and the bear stood up and just kind of like, I wouldn't say mauled but just kind of thrashed at me with its claws on both sides of my face and arm.
"It knocked me down and my daughter started screaming."
The bear had already let go of the dog when it stood up and resumed barking and chasing the bear. The combined effect of all this forced the bear into a retreat, and it climbed the nearest tree.
"And then as I was running to the house I kind of threw the lawn chair at it just to try and scare it more and then I ran up to the balcony where we were screaming for Cooper to come back to the house and then we locked ourselves in the house."
The bear soon got down from the tree and walked north along the shoreline, according to Tobe Sprado, BC Conservation Officer Service inspector for the Okanagan.
Conservation officers, who had been alerted along with RCMP and the BC Ambulance service from the initial 911 call placed by Robinson's daughter, followed a trail of blood from the injured bear.
"They went down onto the lakeshore and saw a significant amount of blood and were able to follow that for over 100 metres," Sprado said.
The black bear sow was then spotted laying on the lakeshore.
"The officer was able to walk up to the sow and put her down. And then the young yearling cubs were also shot and killed," he said.
Sprado added that in such cases the cubs are sometimes relocated but in this case "there's a bit of history with those bears." They have been in numerous residential homes in the area and have become "food conditioned,” which is why they were put down.
Robinson's voice cracked with emotion as she recalled the conservation officers telling her all three bears had to be killed.
Following the attack the family dog Cooper and her daughter were taken by the RCMP to the local veterinarian in Osoyoos, while Robinson was taken by ambulance to the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver.
Lucky for Robinson, the emergency department was still open with half an hour to spare. The ER department was scheduled to close over night from 6 p.m. as a result of the ongoing staffing problems that have plagued the hospital.
Of the eleven stitches she received she has "four on my eyelid, four on my cheek, three on my other cheek. They had to glue my ear because they didn't want to stitch it but they glued it instead."
She also has scratches on both arms because she held up her arms to protect her face. The hospital staff told her she was lucky that she didn't lose her eye in the attack.
"It happened so fast, it was just unbelievable," she said.
She also praised the RCMP who looked after her daughter and the dog and assisted with getting them to and from the veterinary clinic, as well as EMS, and hospital staff. Cooper received some initial treatment, and will be seeing his regular vet in Kelowna too for follow ups as he recovers.
"Everybody was just amazing and shocked that it was a bear attack," Robinson said.
Robinson said it was a 'terrifying' experience and although she has heard about bear attacks, "yesterday I couldn't even comprehend it. Today, I'm just like, I'm angry. I kind of go through, like, you cry, and then you get angry," she said.
“Thank God it was me and not a young child that couldn’t fight back, that would have turned out differently."
One thing that will change for her going forward is that she will always carry bear spray when she goes for walks in the woods and even in urban parks. It's not something she will forget anytime soon.
Meanwhile, a necropsy, which is an autopsy for animals, was performed on the sow Sunday morning and was inconclusive, Sprado noted.
"The only thing that stood out for the officers was that the tongue was somewhat mangled. But it appears based on the evidence that that bear had bled out for quite some time and so there was blood loss that prevented her from leaving [the shoreline]."
He added that there was nothing evident that suggested there was a bullet hole, knife or a bite mark into an artery or anything significant such as that. As such the cause of death is "unknown," other than the final bullet by conservation officers.
Sprado points to the dog as the source of escalation in this incident. "Unfortunately, in this circumstance it was the dog that created the situation but it's obviously unleashed in the backyard which is normal," he said.
His recommendation in such cases is if there is enough lead time, to quickly bring pets into the house, specifically dogs, or quickly put them on a leash.
"But in this particular circumstance it was quick. People aren't going to have bear spray on their person either, it's just instinctual what the homeowner did there," he said.
There is a "possibility" that the bears were displaced a result of the Eagle Bluff wildfire that tore across Mount Kruger but he underscored there's "no evidence to suggest that."
Sprado also highlighted that the presence of bears around the lake is not a one-off event because they will be attracted to "people's fruit and garbage and any attractant, bird seed and pet food and that kind of stuff.
"The public has got to be aware that there will always be wildlife in and around Osoyoos, not just bears, but cougars, bobcats and coyotes and whatnot. Any attractant that is there you're going to be attracting some form of wildlife even as small as racoons and rats."