August 29, 2013

Official: Polar bear fence too mangled for clues

He says the bear that attacked a Mainer on July 24 destroyed the electric fence so it can't be determined if it was working properly.

The Associated Press

PORTLAND — Canadian park officials say they'll never know whether an electric fence failed when a polar bear entered a campsite and dragged a Maine man from his tent in northern Labrador.

click image to enlarge

This photo shows a view of the Nachvak Fjord in the Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador, Canada. Maine resident Matthew Dyer was camping in this national park, near the Nachvak Fjord, when he was attacked by a polar bear Wednesday, July 26, 2013.

Photo courtesy of National Parks of Canada

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The bear in Torngat Mountains National Park destroyed the fence, so officials can't determine if it was working properly, said Peter Deering, manager of resource conservation for Parks Canada in western Newfoundland and Labrador.

Matt Dyer, of Turner, Maine, was saved when a member of his party fired a flare, startling the bear and causing it to drop him early on July 24. He's still recovering from his injuries.

Officials in the remote park recommend that visitors hire an armed Inuit guide. Dyer said he's not sure a single guard would've saved him since the attack happened late when everyone was asleep.

He said he would never return to the park without 24-hour protection, and that would take several guards.

Deering said even one guide could be helpful because Inuits know polar bear behavior and could try to resolve problems before they escalate.

For example, a guard might move a campsite if the bears are getting too close or becoming aggressive, he said.

He added that he never goes into the park without an armed guard. Electric fences, flares and firecracker-like "bangers" may serve as deterrents, but there's no guarantee they'll keep away a determined bear, he said.

Dyer said he doesn't blame anyone for what happened. He's just happy to be alive.

"I took a trip to polar bear country knowing there was a risk of a deadly encounter," he said. "I was unlucky to get attacked, but very lucky to have survived. I owe a lot to my companions and to many Canadian first responders, nurses and physicians.

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