Portland Press Herald (Maine); August 6:
Letters to the editor: Non-lethal policy favors the bears
Regarding Matthew Dyer, the Sierra Club hiker attacked while in his tent at 1:30 a.m. July 24 in eastern Canada's Torngat Mountains when an electric fence failed to stop a polar bear:
CBC News reported July 27, "Parks Canada advises visitors of the park to hire an armed Inuit polar bear guard .... Dyer's group did not hire a bear guard."
Armed Inuit guards -- an excellent idea, by the way -- were quite likely not hired because the Sierra Club seeks non-lethal means of protection in a bear attack, most notably by advocating pepper spray for bear attacks.
Although the electric fence and pepper spray are steps in the right direction in trying to co-exist peacefully with bears, they're not enough to stop a charging bear, particularly in the wee hours, when bears tend to attack people in tents.(Japanese wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino experienced a worse fate than Dyer in Kamchatka, Russia, on Aug. 8, 1996, when a bear attacked him in his tent at 4:30 a.m., dragged him out of it and killed him.)
In September 1996, my friend Keith Benner and I were attacked by a brown bear in Alaska as pepper spray allowed a face-to-face encounter, risking mauling and death after the bear knocked me to the ground with a side-arm swipe to my chest.
A .454-caliber Casull or .338-caliber rifle (I've since learned) could have stopped the bear in its charge instead of leaving our fate up to the bear.(Our experience is described in the article "A Can of Spray, A Lot of Luck," in the Sept. 29, 1996, edition of the Anchorage Daily News.)
The Inuits must be shaking their heads.