After a grizzly bear charged at him, leapt on him and chewed on his hand last month, conservation officer Matthew Corbett says he is “doing all right.”
Corbett, 32, has been off work since a mission to kill an aggressive bear north of Cranbrook, B.C., turned into a fight for his life.
“It just got on me,” Corbett recounted to Radio West host Sarah Penton. “It felt like a minute to me, but it happened in seconds.
“I was able to turn, face it, maybe take two steps back before it was on me. It was quick, that’s for sure.”
The encounter took place early on the evening of Oct. 20.
Earlier in the day, the bear attacked a man on a service road near Wycliffe, between Cranbrook and Kimberley.
The man had a rifle, however, and was able to shoot the bear in one of its hind legs, shattering its femur, Corbett said. Then, Corbett, three other conservation officers, a contract houndsman and several dogs were dispatched to find the bear and kill it.
The group tracked the bear to a swamp deep in the bush. Then, Corbett said, another officer spotted it about 20 metres away and yelled out.
The bear first charged at the hounds but then turned to Corbett, he said. Aiming from the hip, he got off a quick shot with his rifle but couldn’t slow it down.
The bear was on him. He said he tried to protect himself with his left hand, which the bear began biting.
He drew his pistol with his right. Once he got the gun out, he kept shooting until the bear went down.
“It was on top of me when I killed it,” Corbett said. “I knew I was going to get hurt a little bit, but I also knew I was going to be fine. I had three guys with me that know, absolutely, what they’re doing.”
The other officers pried Corbett’s hand out of the bear’s mouth and got him to hospital, he said. Doctors needed to perform surgery on his hand.
A spokesperson from the B.C. Ministry of the Environment said the incident was the first grizzly bear attack on a conservation officer going back to at least the 1980s.
“I’m in an exclusive club, I guess,” Corbett joked.
Despite the encounter, Corbett, a seven-year veteran of the Conservation Officer Service, said he can’t wait to get back to work.
“Things like this just prove how good our training is,” he said. “I’m just as confident as ever to get back in the bush.”
Corbett said he expects to recover in about 10 to 12 weeks.
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With files from Sarah Penton and CBC Radio One’s Radio West
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