Yukon wildlife officials want to limit the number of interactions with humans as bears begin to fatten up ahead of winter. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. cyclist fights off grizzly bear with camping knife

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A British Columbia man is crediting a camping knife, a gift from his father, for helping him survive a terrifying attack by a grizzly bear earlier this week.

Colin Dowler, 45, was cycling on his mountain bike around backcountry logging roads outside of Powell River, about 170 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, on Tuesday when he suddenly came upon a large male grizzly bear, walking in his direction.

“I wasn’t really sure what to do about the situation,” Dowler told CBC News from his Vancouver hospital bed. “I largely stood there, and let the grizzly keep walking up towards me.”

(click to listen to the report by CBC reporter Tanya Fletcher)

Worried that any sudden movements on his part could provoke the bear, Dowler said he nervously watched as the animal got closer and closer.

Dowler said he had a hiking pole with him and tried to poke the animal to nudge it away.

But the bear kept advancing, and swiped at Dowler’s mountain bike.

“It grabbed me by the stomach and kind of pushed me down and dragged me toward the ditch maybe 50 feet,” he said. “I tried eye gouging it away and it didn’t really work.”

As the bear continued its relentless attack, biting into Dowler’s thigh and leg, he suddenly remembered that he had a small knife in his pocket. He had received it as a gift from his father two weeks earlier.

Dowler says he still can’t understand how he managed to get to the knife while the bear kept chewing on his leg.

“I used both hands to pull underneath the bear to get to that knife, and I grabbed the knife out and opened it and put it in [my] hand and stabbed the bear in his neck,” Dowler told CBC News.

“It let go of me immediately. It was bleeding quite badly.”

Colin Dowler stabbed a grizzly bear in the neck and then rode his mountain bike nearly seven kilometres to safety. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Bleeding profusely, the bear watched as Dowler managed to cut off one of his shirt sleeves and bandage his leg.

“I wasn’t really sure if it was dying faster than I was,” Dowler said.

Somehow he managed to get back on his mountain bike and pedal away.

“I was thinking I’m not going to make it,” he said. “It was pretty freaking scary.”

In fact, Dowler pedalled for seven kilometres until he reached a remote worksite and collapsed.

Alerted by his cries for help, five workers showed up and began administering first aid, trying frantically to stop the bleeding in Dowler’s legs.

They also called an air ambulance.

Dowler is now recovering inside Vancouver General Hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

B.C. wildlife officials said they had to put down the bear after it snuck behind one of the officers.

With files from Tanya Fletcher and Chris Corday of CBC News

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