'I did think I was going to die': Hiker recovering after being attacked by a bear in Riding Mountain National Park
WINNIPEG -- A Manitoba hiker says she thought she was going to die after being attacked by a young black bear in Riding Mountain National Park.
Erin McKenzie is now recovering after the surprise encounter with the bear left her with a gash on her face and claw marks on her back.
The attack happened on Monday afternoon, on the Moon Lake Trail in the national park.
"All of a sudden at the top of the hill, a black bear just came running out of the bush to my side," McKenzie said.
"It just reacted out of fear and it struck me in the face with its paw, and then again in the back. I'm not really sure what happened first."
McKenzie said she screamed out of fear and pain, and the bear ran off. She said the whole attack lasted only a matter of seconds.
"I knew right away that I was gushing blood because I could see all the blood coming down on my shirt and onto my legs and my shoes," she said.
"I did think I was going to die for a moment there because I was attacked by a bear."
McKenzie said she spoke with her brother and mother on the phone as she walked more than five kilometres back to the mouth of the trail, where her boyfriend met her and took her to the hospital.
MOON LAKE TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO BEAR ATTACK
Parks Canada confirmed with CTV News that an individual was attacked by a bear on the Moon Lake Trail on July 13.
Parks Canada learned of the attack a day later. The trail has since been closed.
"Human and wildlife safety is of the utmost importance to Parks Canada," the government agency said in a written statement. "The Agency takes action to promote coexistence between people and wildlife, to ensure the well-being and safety of both."
Parks Canada said the Moon Lake Trail is a natural feeding corridor for wildlife during the summer months.
McKenzie said she had been running on the trail with her dogs all summer, and though she had seen many black bears in the area before, she never had any issue.
"Almost every time I go hiking I come across bears and all sorts of wildlife, and I've never had a problem with any of it. Usually, I see them before I get too close," she said. "That was the first time on Monday that I've really come close to losing my life."
RESTRICTIONS PUT IN PLACE ON TRAIL DAYS BEFORE ATTACK
In order to reduce 'potential human-wildlife encounters', Parks Canada said it placed restrictions on the trail on July 10.
These restrictions say no dogs or bicycles are allowed on the trail, and people on the trail are required to travel in groups.
"It is important for visitors to remember that they share the surrounding habitat with wildlife," Parks Canada said.
"Riding Mountain National Park is home to many black bears and visitors can encounter a bear at any time or any place, whether it be on a busy trail close to town or in the remote backcountry."
McKenzie said she missed the restrictions about no dogs and travelling in groups, as there are a number of signs at the mouth of the trail.
ROAD TO RECOVERY WON'T KEEP MCKENZIE OFF THE TRAIL
McKenzie said the gash on her face was deep, but doctors did not put stitches in as a precaution, in case it becomes infected.
"I didn't even know that I got hit on the back by the bear until I was at the hospital and one of the nurses pointed it out to me. There is clearly five claw marks where it swiped me, but those are more superficial than anything," McKenzie said.
"Really what I'll be left with is just a scar on my face and maybe a little bit of nerve damage."
She said she doesn't believe the bear was aggressive or wanted to hurt her.
"I think that we just both scared each other so badly that it was only acting instinctively at the shock of me suddenly being right next to it on the trail."
Still, she said the incident has been a good wake-up call for her.
"It hasn't stopped me from continuing to hike up there and enjoy the trails. If anything, it is a little bit of an awakening to be a little bit more aware of my surroundings," she said.
PARKS CANADA WARNS HIKERS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS
Parks Canada said, while black bears mostly try to avoid people, encounters between the bears and people do happen.
Parks Canada said people hiking in bear country should make noise while out hiking, to let bears know they’re in the area. Hikers should also carry bear spray, ensure it is accessible, and know how to use it before hitting the trails. Dogs should also remain on a leash, as Parks Canada says they can provoke defensive behaviours in bears.
-with files from CTV's Vanessa Broadbent