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On September 6, 2013 just after 8L00 am Bella Coola Detachment was advised that Jerry Lacerte had been mauled by a grizzly bear on Highway 20 between the Skimlik Creek Crossing and Thorsen Creek bridge. Lacerte was assisted almost immediately after the incident by a resident on their way to work and was brought directly to Bella Coola Hospital.
Lacerte advised that he had inadvertently found himself too close to a mother grizzly with two cubs and the sow charged him. He struggled with her and she released him, he played dead and she departed promptly with the approach of a vehicle. Lacerte suffered cuts and puncture wounds, was treated locally and did not require to be transported for his care.
The BC Conservation Officers Service (COs) was immediately engaged and sent two investigators to Bella Coola. Nuxalk Band elected Chief Wally Webber was notified and engaged the River and Coastal Guardians to notify 4 Mile residents door to door. School District #49 was advised and ensured students would not be walking from their bus drop site through the area, Acwsalcta School was not in session that day.
Additionally the message was sent via FaceBook to the area to reach the broadest local audience to ensure the area was kept clear. Additional assistance for patrols and barriers was provided through the Ministry of Environment/Parks personnel in the valley.
The COs investigated the site, interviewed Lacerte, located a sow with cubs in the area that evening and set trail cameras to monitor their movement and behavior. The COs interviewed area residents regarding bear activity in the area and consulted with the Nuxalk Band administration and RCMP regarding their investigation. After sighting a sow with two cubs the first night no further contact was made and the trail cameras did not record them moving in the area.
Monitoring the area through Sunday did not locate a sow with cubs in the area. The COs investigation supported that the attack by the sow was in defense of her cubs and not a territorial/boundary position and that she had left the area. In consultation with the Band and RCMP the COs will not be tracking the sow and cubs for intervention.
Jerry Lacerte is recovering from his injuries and has expressed his thanks for the community support. The inter-agency cooperation between the local agencies, Band and community was prompt and effective to deal with the immediate issues of public safety, thanks to all that assisted.
This is a BC Conservation Service investigation. Any requests for information on this incident can be made directly to Sgt. Len Butler at 250-398-4537. Concerns regarding wildlife can be reported through the toll free RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line at 1-877-952-7277.
Our local BearAware / WildSafe coordinator is Ellie Archer. She is available to provide guidance and support toward safe attractant management or grounds maintenance that may assist to prevent conflicts with wildlife. She can be reached at 250-957-8445 and information is available online at www.wildsafebc.com
In the previous Police Report it is stated that the maximum speed in a school zone is 30 km/hr. Although this is true for organized areas (municipalities, towns, cities and villages where it is posted maximum 50 km/hr unless otherwise posted), outside of these areas the speed regulation will be as posted.
Here in Bella Coola the Seventh Day Adventist school is situated along a numbered Provincial Highway which is posted 80 km/hr and the school zone is in effect on days school is in session between 8 am and 5 pm and posted at 50km/hr.
The previous report highlights the significantly higher survival rates of pedestrian/vehicle collisions where the vehicle speed is less than 50 km/hr. Please exercise your best judgement and adjust your speed for the safety of pedestrians along the highway.
Thank you to those that took the time to read the report in detail and ask meaningful questions.