A 27-year-old man from Prince George is recovering at home after a black bear chased him and tried to drown him in a lake on the outskirts of the city.
Brandon Lattie says the fact that he survived a black bear attack is just starting to set in two days after the incident, which left him with scratches and puncture wounds.
“It just happened so quick. He was holding me down — I didn’t really feel anything, there was so much adrenaline — I just wanted to stay alive,” Lattie recalled Friday afternoon, still reeling from the experience.
“After the bear struck me, it was trying to hold me under water. I immediately thought for sure this is where I’m going to die.”
It was the first time Lattie and a buddy were exploring the trails around Ferguson Lake Nature Preserve, a small lake on the north eastern edge of the city, Wednesday evening when three quarters of the way through their walk they encountered the ‘huge black bear’ on the trail.
Lattie said they both took off when they came across the bear, and he tried hiding at first but then decided to run too.
“I kept looking back and decided to truck through the terrain. I don’t know if that was the best move I could have made, but it’s all I thought about at that time,” Lattie said.
“I almost got stuck in the swampy area, and the bear was on my back. I jumped into water with no game plan, no real idea on what to do.”
With his shoes stuck in the muddy lake bottom and the bear on top of him, Lattie said he felt like he was drowning.
“After it tried to push me under water, I was about a foot from the surface fighting for my life basically and was able to push from the ground back for air, 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.’”
Frantic, Lattie said he swam away from the bear toward the middle of the lake with the animal swimming after him.
“I was scared, I don’t know what I was thinking but I managed to swim all the way from the west side of Ferguson Lake to the docks. My emotions were so high.”
What Lattie didn’t realize at the time was that Alana Bull had just arrived on the other side of the lake to walk the trails with her children and their Husky-Shepherd cross dog Musket, and heard Lattie’s screams for help.
In a social media post, Bull said her friend called 9-1-1 and she left her boys with her as she ran her dog down the trail as fast as they could.
“I knew he would distract the bear from a safe distance and hopefully [Brandon Lattie] could get away. During this time the bear made contact with [him] in the water and tried to push him under. When we got to the other side, Musket caught scent and sight of the bear and started barking ferociously,” she said, noting the plan worked and the bear started to turn and swim away.
“I’m so proud of my dog. The man was able to swim to us at the dock. I was ready to jump in if needed but he was able to make it on his own. Police, fire, ambulance and conservation arrived shortly after … thankful to God for watching out for everyone and for us being there when we were.”
RCMP, firefighters and the Conservation Officer Service attended the scene and the bear was later trapped and destroyed as it showed a high degree of habituation toward humans.
Lattie’s mother, Laurel, said she is in awe that her son managed to get away from the bear, and how far he swam. She’s also very thankful to Alana Bull and hopes she to meet her one day soon.
“How do you thank someone for saving you son’s life?” she questioned. “We’re planning on getting the dog lots of treats.”
Looking back, Lattie believes a higher power was looking over him that night and he’s thankful to Bull for helping him in his time of need.
“I’m just glad to be alive.”