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Man who cut throat of attacking bear in B.C. tells gripping tale


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VICTORIA - When Ed Stirling went to the aid of a man being mauled by a black bear aboard a small fishing boat tied up at a Port Renfrew wharf this week, he selected his weapon with care.
He could see half a dozen men were already trying to pry the bear off its victim without success in an unusual, sustained attack.
"I grabbed my best knife. When I got there the victim was being thoroughly gripped by the bear with his paws and it was chewing on his back. It was a horrific sight," Stirling said Wednesday.
The bear was standing, doggedly gripping its victim with its teeth and front paws while four men tried to pry it off with fishing gaffs - strong poles with hooks designed for lifting heavy fish - with such force that they bent the poles.
Another man was beating the animal's head with a hammer before he picked up a 10-centimetre blade and stabbed it repeatedly.
Stirling told another man to stop annoying the bear with his "tiny" knife, then stepped forward with his chosen weapon, a Swedish filleting knife with a 30-cm blade.
"I was saying, `Where is his head?' When I could see his throat, I reached in stabbing. I could hear blood flowing. I figured I got his jugular."
The victim, a 52-year-old Saltspring Island man whose name has not been released, is in stable condition in a Victoria hospital.
The initial results of a necropsy performed on the bear by a vet yesterday showed the animal was very old, skinny and in poor health.
Stirling said the animal was completely focused on its victim throughout the attack, which lasted about five minutes.
"It was premeditated. He went straight for him and there is nothing you could do to prevent it. Any one of us could have been the victim - I was surprised he didn't choose me because I was the only one on the dock cleaning fish."
Bud Watt, one of the first rescuers on the scene, said someone tried to distract the bear with fish but it seemed intent on bigger prey.
"It never let go until it was dead," he said. "It didn't know we were there."
Watt, the owner of the Port Renfrew Marina, where the attack took place, said the bear swam a short distance across an estuary where the marina is located and vaulted straight over the back of the boat at the man.
Fire Chief Dan Tennant said bears are usually "more afraid of people than people are of them and normally turn and high-tail it when they see people."
The victim was conscious and in shock, but that his wounds did not appear to be life threatening, he said.
Authorities said the man was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Victoria, about 70 kilometres east of the community.
The area is popular with recreational fishermen seeking salmon, halibut and groundfish and there are a "couple of hundred" boats tied up at the marina at any given time.
Tennant said it was not a large bear, but the incident was extremely unusual.
"Never, ever have I heard of anything like that here, and I doubt I ever will again," he said.
He said there have been large numbers of black bear and deer in the area this summer, but there have been no incidents/
People have been throwing fish remains on to the shore for years, and that has to stop, he said.
"They've all been told, now, not to do that anymore," he said.

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