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Canadian black bear attack echoes similar flesh-eating incidents in Alaska

Craig Medred
istockphoto

A man in northern Ontario has survived a rare, predatory attack by a black bear thanks to the help of two unidentified women who understood the most important thing about such animals:

They can be intimidated by humans.

The Sudsbury Star reported the 400-pound bear  -- a black bear bigger than most ever seen in Alaska -- had dragged 40-year-old Joe Azougar out of a remote cabin and was gnawing on his head when two women happened by.

"He was rescued by two Timmins (Ontario) women -- campers who had been driving by on a bush road and heard his screams,'' the Star reported.

"The women, whom police would not identify, were able to scare the bear away and drive the severely injured man to hospital."

Alaska has been witness to similar attacks, some of them now famous. Tourist Darcy Staver was knocked from a rooftop near Glennallen and killed by such a bear in 1992 after her husband went for help. Geologist Cynthia Dusel-Bacon lost both arms after a black bear attacked and tried to eat her in the Alaska Range in 1977. She survived only because she was able to use a radio to call co-workers for help.

Azougar, an Internet entrepreneur who moved from the crowded city of Toronto to rural Canada only a month ago, appears to have been just plain lucky that help stumbled by. He told authorities he was having breakfast on the porch of his 8-by-16 foot cabin when the bear approached.

Azougar's German shepherd dog tried to stop the bear, but was killed. Azougar ran into the cabin and slammed the door, but the bear pursued him. It eventually came in through a window, according to reports. "I ran out,'' Azougar said.

That is a bad move, according to authorities on bears, who say the only way to defend yourself against the rare predatory black bear attack is to grab something and fight back.

This bear chased down the fleeing Azougar, knocked him to the ground, and started gnawing on him. Black bears, Alaska wildlife biologist John Hechtel, once famously observed, "don't kill; they eat.''

This one was trying to eat Azougar alive when the women happened on the scene. "Out of nowhere, these two ladies showed up in a car. After that the bear ran away. I don't know who they were. They just showed up out of nowhere,"  Azougar told Star reporter Len Gillis. "The women that saved me, I don't know them. I would like to know them, to meet them.

“If you meet them, you thank those angels for me. They are my angels. Without them, I wouldn't be alive.''

Azougar is now in the hospital recovering. The newspaper reported it took 300 stitches to sew him back together.

The bear was reportedly tracked down and killed by wildlife authorities. The attack is eerily similar to that which left 33-year-old Darcy Staver dead outside of a cabin near Glennallen, about 130 miles northeast of Anchorage, in July 1992. That bear drove Staver and her husband out of a cabin and onto its roof and held them hostage there.

When the bear disappeared from sight, Staver's husband decide to jump down from the roof and run to get help from a neighbor nearby. By the time he and the neighbor returned, the bear had come back, somehow killed Staver and was feeding on her. The bear was shot. 

Research by noted Canadian bear scientist Stephen Herrero has documented more than 60 fatal attacks by predatory black bears in North America since 1900. The attacks tend to happen in rural areas, where bears appear to have had little or limited previous contact with humans. 

Glennallen fits that description as does Timmins, Ont., an old gold mining district about 400 miles northwest of Ottawa. 

Herrero and other authorities advise that if you are approached by a black bear, especially in a rural area, grab the nearest weapon, even a big stick, and prepare to fight like hell.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com