Do Not Mess With Old Men, Even If You Are A Grizzly or You will Get Your Butt Kicked
Man saves son, fights off bear with stick
Bert Wanyandie James and Tom Wanyandie, survived a grizzly bear attack in the woods north of Grande Cache, Alberta.
What began as any other trek through the woods north of Grande Cache, Alta., quickly turned into a pitched battle between a protective mother bear and an equally resolute father determined to defend his son.
No stranger to those woods, 77-year-old Tom Wanyandie snapped into action when he saw the bear tackle his son, James. He improvised with a walking stick he had fortuitously picked up along the way to beat back the bear and allow them to escape.
The pair had ventured into the brush last Saturday evening in search of moose antlers to shape into art. James has a heart condition and, without a job, he spends his days gathering materials to build furniture and crafts.
Soon into their search, James came upon a grizzly cub trying to climb a tree. That, he said, was precisely the moment he knew they were in trouble. “The bear came at me first, so I tried to shoot it, but it kept coming,” said James, via telephone on Tuesday from his hospital room, where is recovering with a broken arm and cuts, bruises and bites.
“It wrestled me to the ground, biting me. My father got so mad, he was so angry to see his son there under the bear like that.” In a split-second decision, and with his son’s life at stake, Tom said he had no choice but to take on the wild bear.
“I was thinking about God and that he would protect us,” Tom said in Cree, which was translated by his daughter, Emily, from his secluded home near Grande Cache. “With God in my head, I took that walking stick and beat the bear, then I shoved it down his throat.”
Tom, who leads hunting trips and often visits ceremonial sweat-lodges in the winter, was soon tossed to the ground. His glasses were knocked from his nose. He could hardly see. James, who is in his 30s, said he was surprised at his father’s swift and brawny reaction, but there was no time to think. The bear was now focused on his father.
“I tried to load my gun again, but my hand was already snapped and the gun was jammed,” James said, adding that his camouflage gear must not have shielded him from the bear’s initial sighting. “My father fought so hard with that bear, he saved my life. He fought so hard to save me.”
But the mother bear, having bitten and clawed at Tom, who now suffered a broken left arm, was not done. She turned back to James, prompting Tom to resume heavy blows to the bear’s head and nose. It was those laboured blasts that finally ended the attack.
“I just kept thinking if we could get to the car without my pace-maker stopping or any blood clots, and if my dad could just hang in there, then we would make it,” James said. Meanwhile, Tom said the initial shock was wearing off, and the deep wounds and broken bones were starting to burn with pain.
The father and son struggled the roughly 600 metres back to their pickup truck and, with James behind the wheel with just one good arm, drove until cellphone reception kicked in. James called his wife, Carol, who then called an ambulance as well as his sister, Emily. The family and emergency services soon met along the highway, roughly 450 km northwest of Edmonton.
“When we saw them, they were so pale and really in pain,” Emily said from her father’s home, where he is now recuperating after being treated for minor injuries at Grande Cache hospital. “There was so much blood. I’ve never seen my dad in so much pain.”
Despite his injuries, Tom said yesterday he wanted to return to the attack site to “go over what happened.” Indeed, this was not the first time he was threatened by a bear — years ago, he and a group of hunters were forced to shoot three bears in the brush – but, if he has his way, it will be the last. “He was a brave man, not many people could fend off a bear like that,” James said. “We’ll probably go back into the woods together when we heal.”