The bear down by the creek: Part II

Injured after an encounter with a grizzly sow and cubs, Susan and Peter talk about how they made it to safety

  • Feb. 7, 2013 8:00 a.m.
Top: Mather Creek

Top: Mather Creek

Part II of an interview with Susan Bond and Peter Moody.

CAROLYN GRANT

After encountering a grizzly sow with her two cubs beside Mather Creek not far from their LD Ranch Road home, Susan and Peter were left injured and lying on the ground, about eight feet apart. It was late afternoon, Sunday, November 25, 2012.

Susan was conscious, though hurt badly, and thinking about how they would both get away from the attack site and find help. “Peter looked at me and said, ‘are you okay?’ I said, ‘yeah’. Then we both stood up. How we did that, I don’t know.”

Peter says that while he had seen the cubs when the sow went after Susan, neither of them had known about the deer carcass nearby. It was a four-point whitetail buck that the sow had taken down and the bear family had been feeding on. The trio didn’t move far from their kill after the attack.

“I didn’t know about that until much later,” Susan said. “At the time I was just scared and wanted to get away.

“To the left was a steep bank. I thought that was probably where the bears had gone, and I couldn’t have managed to get up that way anyway,” Susan said. “But we knew that if we crossed the creek, we’d be in a big field that would take us back to LD Ranch Road. I managed to say ‘creek’, pointed to it and started walking.”

“So we waded across the creek,” Peter said. “Susan’s leg was really badly hurt — it’s amazing she eventually walked as far as she did. She wouldn’t have been able to do it without the ski poles.”

“At one point, Peter fell forward into the water,” Susan said. “I heard him fall, but I didn’t even turn around. I knew I couldn’t help. I knew if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to keep going. Fortunately, he got up.”

“The issue once we got across the creek was the height of the grass and the uneven ground,” Peter said. “It wasn’t so bad for me, but for Susan, the grass was up to her hips in places and it was very difficult to walk.”

“I fell once coming into the open field,” Susan said. “I did manage to get up again though it felt like my knee was coming apart. The CO said later he knew exactly where I fell. I guess there was a lot of blood there.

“The other big obstacles were two barbed wire fences. Peter managed to open the strands enough so I could walk through. There was no way I could bend down. If he hadn’t done that, I’d still be there.”

“I could go faster than Susan,” Peter said. “My legs weren’t as badly hurt. I thought if I went ahead that would speed up getting help for Susan, but I realized she wouldn’t be able to handle the fences. She was going into shock. If she sat down, it would get worse. So we stayed together. After we got through the second fence, I went as fast as I could.”

By now Peter was near the greenhouses on LD Ranch Road.

“It was a Sunday and I didn’t think anyone would be around,” Peter said. “But I went close to the greenhouses, calling for help. I took the occasional fall. There was one more fence along LD Ranch Road. I went over it and up onto the road. On the other side of the road is a cabin and a fellow comes out. He has a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He was doing what many Canadians were doing that day — watching the Grey Cup. But he’d had a pair of binoculars and he happened to see me. He couldn’t have seen Susan from there.

“When we met I’m not sure who said what. There was a lot of blood on my face and head from the scalp wounds. He realized something bad had happened. I said, ‘Susan … out there’. Another guy came out of the house. He ran and got into a truck and drove out into the field to pick up Susan.”

“When Peter went ahead, I was making my way quite slowly. When I got to the point where the field turns to the east, I knew there was still a ways to go,” Susan said. “I didn’t know how much further I could go. I stopped to rest and heard the truck. The sound faded and then I heard it again. I thought, someone’s coming for me. I knew Peter had reached help. It gave me a spurt of energy.

“Randy Harvey was the man in the pickup. He was going to lift me into it and I said no — I knew it would have been too painful for my leg. I managed to get into the truck. Then I started to get cold. I was really shaking and out of it.”

Their rescuers – Randy, his wife Bonnie and their friend Alan Hunter – got Peter and Susan into the house and called 911.

“They put blankets around us and  talked to us to keep us conscious,” Peter said. “I asked them to call our neighbours, Walter and Carol Latter, so they could alert the rest of the neighbourhood that there were grizzlies around.”

“Bonnie got me into a big comfy chair,” Susan said. “She talked to me and held my hand. It was so comforting. I was really chilled so the guys pulled my wet boots and socks off.

“Then the ambulance arrived and before long we were in the Cranbrook hospital ER.”

At the hospital, they were quickly assessed, given tetanus shots, and had their wounds irrigated to help prevent infection.

“I’ve learned that it’s really important after an attack like ours to irrigate the wounds to get rid of bacteria from the animal’s mouth and claws,” Susan said.

She says her sister Mary Ellen and brother Kevin were at the hospital — she remembers hearing their voices and being so glad they were there — and the Latters arrived as well.

“I remember a male voice asking if I remembered what happened,” Susan said. “It might have been an RCMP officer, I don’t know, but I recounted the whole episode as best as I could, from the time we left our house.”

They were soon on their way to Calgary and the Foothills Medical Centre via medivac.

“We were in surgery overnight,” Susan said. “The next morning they put us together in a two-bed room in Unit 31, the plastic surgery ward.”

Meanwhile, back at LD Ranch Road, East Kootenay Conservation Officers were launching what would become a week-long field investigation into the attack.An initial party of two officers scouted the general vicinity a couple of hours after the attack but, with light failing, were unable to pinpoint the exact location. The next morning a party of four officers found the site.

In tomorrow’s Townsman, Susan and Peter talk about their recovery and what they have learned about what happened that day.