May 9, 2014 4:44 pm

Calgary woman shares survival story, following bear attack

CALGARY- Just days after a female worker was attacked and killed by a bear on a Suncor site, a Calgary woman has come forward to share her survival story, after coming face-to-face with the same threat.

About a decade ago, Fran Nykoluk was hunting with her husband west of Chain Lakes, Alberta. Nykoluk had gunned down an elk which she was pulling along with her, and at one point she and her husband got separated.

“It was just absolutely quiet, there wasn’t any sound anywhere. The back of my neck started crawling,” she remembers.

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Just seconds later, she was attacked by a grizzly bear.

“My first thought was to roll over, because that’s what they tell you,” Nykoluk says. “Everything I moved, she bit.

“It doesn’t take a smart person to say, ‘OK, stop moving.’”

The grizzly was more interested in the dead elk, and eventually left with the carcass, leaving Nykoluk with serious injuries to her face and body. She was fortunate to survive, and says she was saddened by the news that Suncor employee Lorna Weafer was killed Wednesday during a similar attack.

“All the reports are she was a marvelous young lady, she had her whole life ahead of her.”

She adds that her heart goes out to Weafer’s family.

“I really feel bad for them. My family and friends helped me get over this. I hope her family will get over this and remember what a beautiful lady she was.”

Experts say it’s important for people to know what to do, in the event they encounter a bear.

“If the bear makes contact with you, play dead,” suggests David Garrow, a wildlife specialist with Parks Canada. “Lie on your stomach and position your arms so your hands are behind your neck. These defensive attacks last less than two minutes in duration. If the attack continues it may mean the attack has shifted from defensive to predatory.

“In that case, fight back.”

He adds that the threat in the Alberta backcountry is greater this year, due to the weather.

“It snowed quite a bit in early May…you’re putting all the bears on the landscape onto a small sliver of available habitat.  There aren’t more bears, but the density per square kilometer is quite high. That increases the probability that you’ll encounter a bear.”


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