It’s not everyday one goes out for a jog and ends up in a tree – for hours – as a large black bear patrols below, but that’s exactly what happened to Francis Levasseur while on a secluded trail in the West Kootenays recently.
Levasseur, 42, was out for an afternoon jog on a trail near a friend’s farm in the Slocan Valley community of Hills, B.C., on Victoria Day long weekend when he came across the bear.
At first, Levasseur did what any expert would advise: he walked slowly, didn’t turn his back and managed to pick up a stick and wave it wildly to try and scare the four-legged predator, standing roughly 100 metres away.
But, the bear didn’t seem to care and started walking towards Levasseur. His walk turned into a run.
“I was not expecting that reaction from him,” Levasseur told Black Press Media. “I knew what he wanted right away.”
Levasseur’s quick reaction was to climb up a nearby tree – one that was too small for the large bear to climb and waited for nearly two hours for the bear to leave, to no avail.
“I was screaming, shaking the tree and throwing branches at the ground,” he recalled, but the bear had its own plan in mind, walking out of sight to try and trick Levasseur into thinking he was safe to climb down.
He even tried urinating on the tree – a known method to deter nosey bears.
“At the beginning, I was trying to plan an escape,” he said, “but I imagined what if I start running and he catches me and goes for my guts first… I would be the spectator of my own death.”
Luckily for Levasseur, an experienced emergency responder who lives nearby named Mat Phillips eventually heard distant yells for help from his farmhouse near the trail.
With bear spray in hand and a machete in the other, Phillips and his dog were able to find Levasseur and scare the bear away, before driving the exhausted jogger home.
Phillips, who is the president of the Hills Emergency Services Society, went back out into the wooded area the next day – this time with bear biologist Wayne McCrory – to search for the bear, but couldn’t find it. They did find a blue ski-do, which appeared to have been abandoned in the winter and overturned by the bear.
Levasseur’s wild experience is rather rare when it comes to black bear encounters in the province, but serves as a good reminder that B.C. has officially entered its annual bear season.
There were 624 calls to the BC Conservation Officer Service about black bears in April, with 103 being attended by an officer. Fourteen bears were euthanized. Those stats are typical for the beginning of spring, according to provincial government data.
Levasseur admitted that his mistake was not bringing bear spray with him, even though his jog was intended to be a short one. As someone who has lived and worked “in the bush” for nearly a decade, this isn’t his first time getting close to a bear, but certainly an instance he won’t soon forget.
“I’m more comfortable with animals, they are more predictable than humans,” Levasseur said. “But that one was not predictable at all.”
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