Bella Coola man ‘lucky to be alive’ after grizzly bear attack

Bella Coola man ‘lucky to be alive’ after grizzly bear attack

Jerry Lacerte and his daughter Nola Mack at the Bella Coola General Hospital on the day of his release.

Jerry Lacerte still isn’t sure how he survived yesterday morning’s sudden attack, but he’s still amazed that he escaped. “I shouldn’t be alive,” Lacerte said this morning as he was preparing to be released from hospital. “It’s not fun to dance around with a grizzly bear.”

Lacerte was heading east on Highway 20, just above Thorsen Creek, at about 8:15 am yesterday morning. He said he just caught a glimpse of the bear out of the corner of his eye before the attack.

“She was about 50 feet behind me on the other side of the road,” he said. “I turned and she was galloping towards me.”

Lacerte had just enough time to turn around and tried to make himself look big, but she charged on. “She grabbed my arm and knocked me to the ground and started mauling my face and head,” he said. “It was like being hit with a sledgehammer.”

Lacerte was just about knocked out by the bear, but managed to recover quickly enough to punch her in the nose. “When I punched her she let go,” he said. “Then I just covered up my head and tried to protect myself.”

Lacerte played dead and was rescued almost immediately afterwards by a passing vehicle and transported to the hospital. “The whole thing lasted less than a few minutes,” he said. “I’m sure the traffic saved me.”

Conservation Officers are now in the area trying to locate the bear, and CO Len Butler says they are also trying to determine what motivated the attack.

“It seems like it was a defensive attack. The bears are in the river right now feeding on the salmon and it sounds like the subject was walking along the highway and got between the sow and the cubs,” Butler said. “People have to be aware when there are bears in the rivers like that. It is a dangerous situation.”

Butler agrees that Lacerte is lucky to have escaped the attack and is expected to fully recover from his injuries. “Just from the strength and the power of these animals, Jerry is a very lucky individual,” said Butler. “We all know the size of the grizzlies… it’s definitely life threatening and it could have been for him.”