Family pet credited with saving Thunder Bay man from aggressive bear near Ignace
By Chris Marchand
Still wearing wet shoes in the Dryden Regional Health Centre emergency room, Trevor Miller’s eyes well up with emotion as he describes with a voice, still hoarse from yelling, the sacrifice of his sister’s dog Spyro that enabled his escape from a hours-long ordeal with an aggressive black bear.
The 42 year-old Thunder Bay resident, a camper at Ignace’s Sandbar Lake Provincial Park, was hiking the familiar Silhouette Trail with two small dogs, Aug. 3 when he was struck from behind during a rest stop at Crocker Lake.
A large black bear had sunk its teeth into Miller’s back knocking him to the ground. Neither he nor the dogs, a miniature schnauzer (Spyro) and a Jack Russell Terrier mix (Puzzle), heard the bear’s approach.
“I was on the ground seeing stars and I couldn’t understand what had happened,” said Miller. “When I got up and turned around I was literally face-to-face with the bear. He was so close. I realized I was in trouble.”
Miller says the two dogs distracted the bear long enough for him to escape a vulnerable position.
“I was able to get the dogs and we jumped in the lake.” said Miller. “I got out as far as I could before it went over my head. I started moving down the shoreline and he was just following me. He just kept coming.”
Miller says the bear became increasingly bold, swimming out to them twice at which times he was able to repel the animal by striking him in the head with pieces of sunken deadfall.
For close to two hours Miller tried to elude the persistent bear to no avail, an experience he describes as physically and psychologically gruelling.
“It happened so fast that when I first made it to the water I was thinking things like,’I hope he doesn’t break my camera,’ because he was clawing at my backpack on shore; or that my iPod was getting wet in my pocket. It started dawning on me what was going on. It just didn’t seem real. It was terrifying when he would go in the water and swim to me. As terrible as it was, it was an amazing sight in some sense. It was a nice-looking animal, but he was out to get me.”
Finally, with the bear briefly out of sight, Miller says he and the dogs made a run for it covering a few kilometers before looking back.
“I looked back and he’s barreling down the road and my heart just sank. I thought, ‘My God, I’m not by the water anymore, what am I going to do?’. When he was getting close to me I knew I had to turn around, that I couldn’t just let him bowl me over.”
Brandishing a tree limb, Miller says he managed to scare the bear off by holding the branch over his head and yelling. The bear, however, became less and less threatened by Miller’s bluster.
“I think it was the third time and he (bear) just stopped six feet in front of me and was just looking at me.” said Miller. “Spyro (dog) there, it was like he knew what he had to do. He didn’t try to attack the bear, he basically walked up to him and sat down. The bear raised up and jumped on him, then grabbed him and ran.”
Not believing his ordeal was over, Miller and his dog Puzzle kept running until they came upon the Ontario Junior Ranger buildings back at Sandbar Lake Provincial Park.
“I got to the door and it was open,” he said. “I felt bad because this poor summer student was sitting on the couch watching a movie and this ‘lunatic’ barges in soaking wet with a knife in his hand. I immediately said, ‘I’ve been attacked by a bear!’ She was a bit startled, but she didn’t freak out too badly.”
On Monday Provincial Park officials confirmed the capture of the black bear responsible for the unprovoked attack. The bear was caught in a live trap. The trails surrounding the park still remain closed until park officials complete their investigation.
Miller was transported to hospital in Dryden and treated for flesh wounds to his back and arms. He returned to the park the same night.