Moon Lake is a hiking trail in Canada’s Riding Mountain National Park that Erin McKenzie runs and hikes nearly every other day. On July 10th, the runner returned to her favorite trail once more with her four dogs for a trail run around the lake. Her dogs ran ahead of her unleashed while she listened to music. It was just like another day in the park until two and a half miles in, a spooked black bear jumped out of a bush directly in front of her. Suddenly she found herself in the midst of a bear attack.
Reacting out of fear, the bear swiped at her, striking her in the face and back and then ran away into the woods. The attack only lasted for a few seconds, but once it was over McKenzie was in shock. Since her dogs were running ahead, they weren’t around for the attack. Once she calmed herself down, McKenzie hiked roughly three miles back to her car where her boyfriend drove her to the hospital to be treated for her wounds. The scratches on her back weren’t too concerning, but the large incision on her face was pretty deep and showed signs of infection. The doctor who treated her ended up leaving the big scratch unstitched so they could monitor the infection, meaning it will likely scar. Despite the new gnarly facial scar, McKenzie admits that she’s lucky to be alive.
As someone who’s extensively hiked and backpacked for the last decade, McKenzie recognizes that she got a bit too comfortable with her trail runs. Moving forward she plans to wear a bear bell and no longer run with headphones, so she can better listen to her surroundings. Her animal encounter is a harrowing reminder for anyone recreating in bear country. Bears generally don’t like to interact with humans, but here are few tips from CBC Canada for staying safe and alert on the trail.
- 1. Always carry bear spray, ensure it is accessible, and know how to use it before you head out on the trails. Bear spray can also help deter other big animals.
- 2. Watch for fresh bear signs. Tracks, droppings, diggings, torn-up logs and turned-over rocks are all signs that a bear has been in the area. Leave the area if the signs are fresh.
- 3. Keep dogs leashed at all times or leave them at home. Dogs can provoke defensive behaviour in bears.
- 4. Larger groups are less likely to have a serious bear encounter.
- 5. Respect all restrictions, warnings and closures.
- 6. Stay on trails and only travel during daylight hours.
- 7. If you come across a large dead animal, leave the area and report it.
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