VANCOUVER - An Alaskan angler mauled by a grizzly bear this week in northwestern B.C. has been airlifted to a Vancouver hospital where he will undergo intensive surgery for many broken bones and a missing jaw.
Sergeant Kevin Nixon with the BC Conservation Officer Service says the 65-year-old man was fishing alone at dusk Tuesday in the Morice River in Houston when he startled a sow and one or two of her cubs.
It was around 7:30 p.m., and the man was just packing up his fishing gear for the evening. It's believed he was crouching down to put something in a bag and when he stood up the bear lunged at him.
After the mauling, and with multiple broken bones all over his body, the man somehow crawled about 300 metres out of the rural wooded area to a road.
Nixon said a woman was driving along the road at that moment and saw him curled up in the ditch. She stopped to help the man and when she realized the severity of the situation called emergency services.
"If she hadn't stopped for him, this could have been a life and death situation." said Nixon.
The man, whose name has not been released by authorities, was transported to a hospital in Smithers but was later airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital.
Mounties believe the man was on vacation from a small town in Alaska and are trying to contact his family. Corp. Aaron Geary, a spokesman for the Houston RCMP, declined to release his hometown because it could identify the victim.
He said the man's camper van has been towed from the fishing site. The area, he said, is a popular destination for fly fishing and attracts people from all over the world, including celebrities and politicians.
Nixon said the man's condition is not known but he has severe facial and head injuries, multiple broken bones and deep puncture wounds. He said the man is missing his lower jaw and will require months of reconstructive surgery.
Conservation officers spoke to the man briefly but said his injuries were so severe he could only respond to yes and no questions.
From that interview, officers were able to determine that the animal was a grizzly bear and that the attack was likely defensive rather than predatory.
Conservation officers combed the site on Wednesday and found the site covered in blood. They found bear fur on the trees and bear cub tracks.
The officers did a flyover of the area but found no sign of the bear or cubs.
Nixon says sections of the road between Owen Flats and the Aspen Pool campsite have been closed until further notice. They are warning anglers and hikers to stay out of the area for now while they investigate this weekend.
Grizzly bear sightings are not unusual for the rural area of Houston, however Nixon said he had not heard of an angler being mauled before at the Morice River, a common spot for fishing steelhead.
Geary warned that there are lots of bears in the area and people should always fish in pairs. He also suggested playing a transistor radio or making plenty of noise so the bears will stay away.
Last fall, a woman was mauled by a black bear about 20 kilometres east of Houston. She survived but she was badly mangled and her ear was torn off.
Geary said that incident was the first bear mauling in 11 years in Houston.
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