26 Nov 2019

Colin Dowler Fought Off a Grizzly with a Small Pocketknife

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Colin Dowler, on his 45th birthday, went camping overnight and trail biking on Mount Doogie Dowler, a 7,000-foot peak overlooking Heriot Bay in British Columbia.

When attacked by a Grizzly, this being Canada, he had nothing to defend himself but a tiny Buck pocketknife. (Outside magazine)

As soon as I got out of the bush and onto my mountain bike, I was on the home stretch. I was excited about celebrating my birthday when I got back.

Peddling away, I came around a bend, and there was a grizzly bear, about a hundred feet in front of me. So I stopped and said, “Hey bear,” because that’s what you do when you see one.

He looked into the bush, looked back up the road, and started walking my way. I kept talking to him. I decided not to turn around to get out of there, but in hindsight, maybe I should have.
The grizzly was pretty close, and my bear spray was gone. It fell out of my backpack somewhere on the mountain. So I grabbed one of my hiking poles and extended it to use as some sort of deterrent. I was still straddling my bike in the hopes that the bear would just step off the trail.

It’s a logging road, so it was basically two tire marks with a bump in the middle. He continued to saunter up the road toward me but stayed in his lane. He ended up getting pretty close, maybe 20 feet away. It made me nervous that he hadn’t left yet.

I stepped off my bike, and he kind of shuddered, like he was a little bit jumpy in that moment. He kept approaching until his head was parallel with my front tire, and as he walked past, he dipped his head down. We made a little bit of eye contact, and I looked away, because eye contact didn’t really seem like something I wanted to do.

I remember thinking as he was walking by, Man, this would be cool to video. I’d have footage of a bear walking just clean by me and carrying on his way.

He kept walking by until his rump was almost past my rear tire. And then he did a 180-degree turn.

I spin around, standing with my mountain bike between us. He shuddered again and started walking toward me. I started backing up and talking to him again. I was just trying to speak nicely to the bear in hopes that he would change his mind.

I held out my hiking pole as he approached. I ended up poking him right in the top of the head. He pushed into it, did a flip move with his head that rolled off the pole, and got his mouth onto it. We had a tug-of-war, until he let go of it and started closing in on me again.

I dropped the pole and kept backing up. I flung my backpack between us, hopeful that some food in one of the outside pockets would keep him busy for a bit. He stopped and took a quick sniff, but after maybe half a second, he was coming toward me again.

Then he began doing very slow, deliberate swats at my bike. The first one was pretty mild, but then they got more powerful. As he swatted, I threw my bike at him, and he got briefly hung up on it, but then he lunged forward and grabbed me between my ribs and my left hip.

That’s when it really sank in—I was in trouble.

RTWT

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