Editor’s note: There is strong language in the video clips.
A Kamloops woman is sharing her harrowing story of survival after a bear attacked her and her dog during a recent hike.
In a lengthy Facebook post describing the incident, Ashley Gribble said she was hiking on a trail north of Kamloops on May 5 when the black bear began stalking them.
“A lot of dog guardians always wonder if their dog would save them in the event of a wild animal encounter. A lot of dog guardians also wonder if they’d have the courage to save their animal if they were ever in mortal danger. Last Sunday, I had the terrifying experience of both,” Gribble said in her post. “Let me tell you the story of how my dog Bane saved my life and then how I fought a black bear to save his.”
Gribble said she and her dogs were hiking between McQueen lake and Isobel Lake, and were 90 minutes in when they first encountered the bear.
“As we were coming back along a pond through some trees near the far end of Isobel lake, a bear appeared a mere five feet from me. Not I, or any of the dogs had heard, seen or smelled this bear. I was shocked at just how close it was,” she recounted.
“Milka, my Jack Russell mix, was closest to the bear, she barked and backed the bear up a few feet to give us some space. I backed slowly out of the trees onto the main trail and continued backing up slowly while talking to the bear. At no point did any of the dogs approach the bear.”
Gribble said despite following proper bear encounter techniques, the animal followed them for 15 minutes before climbing a tree. She turned back to head to her car and hiked for another 25 minutes, when they were surprised by a return visit.
“I heard a disturbance in the trees to my left and, holy crap, there was that bear coming out of the trees. He had followed us,” Gribble said.
Gribble said she discharged her bear spray, but it did not stop the charge.
“At this point I’m yelling and backing up while the dogs are barking. As I do so, I fell backwards over a rock. When I was on the ground, the bear just a few feet from me, lunged and I prepared myself for a bite,” Gribble said. “It was at this moment that my dog Bane leapt in front of me and the bear attacked him instead.”
She said the bear picked her 80-pound dog up “like a stick” and ran with him for a short distance. Bane was able to get free and run, but the bear chased him like it would chase a deer.
“It grabbed his behind, bit into his back, covered him with his body and pinned Bane,” Gribble said. “I’m screaming and yelling ‘help’ and then before I even knew what was happening, with adrenaline surging through me, my instincts were taking over and I was running full tilt at the bear with a log.”
Gribble proceeded to beat the bear in the face and head with the log, aiming for its eyes and nose.
“Finally, after about a dozen blows, the bear released Bane and he was able to flee back to the other dogs to safety,” she said.
“Now the bear and I were face to face. And right about now I’m wondering WTF did I just get myself into? I screamed as loud as I possibly could and banged the log against the trees beside me.”
She said the bear stared at her for what seemed like forever and then it decided to give up and slowly retreated up the slope behind him as she backed her way out of the trees towards the waiting dogs.
Gribble said Bane received 26 punctures from bites and claws.
“If Bane had not leapt in front of me, I know without a doubt that the bear would’ve mauled me and most likely would’ve killed me. He absolutely saved my life,” Gribble said.
Conservation officers were able to find the bear, which was humanely euthanized for public safety since Isobel Lake is a popular spot for school field trips and general public access, Gribble noted.
“It was confirmed to be a mature male bear and confirmed to be the bear that attacked us from measurements of the bites on Bane and measurement of the bear’s jaws,” she said.
“Please educate yourself on proper bear spray techniques and take a day to go practice using it,” Gribble urged,
“I’m sharing because my dog Bane is a hero and he deserves to be recognized for saving my life. Sunday could’ve gone much differently and I’m forever grateful. This won’t stop me from enjoying nature but I will never be the same,” Gribble said.