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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum :: Group Forum: Wilderness Challenges :: Leadership Challenge #7 (Soloist - Bear Attack)
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07/29/2010 07:22AM
Stop the bleeding, keep warm to prevent shock move to the island that I passed on the way to this portage site, it had 4 campsites might be used alot.

Start a smoky fire and put out an SOS that can seen from the sky. Try to stay put for 24-48 hours to see what is going on with my injuries. It depends how I feel, I will not leave the island if I am weak, keep working on right brain activities: Make myself seen and hunker down.

Ration food drink lots of water, I'll worry about gardia later.

back track my route if I feel I can make it.
12/23/2009 03:15PM
This may be faulty logic, but I'd try to find the pack because it has the map. I'd assume the bear just wants the food and has no need of anything else, especially the map, the Nalgene bottles, the water filter, and the tarp (in that order of priority). The bleeding will stop soon, and if it doesn't I won't be getting out under my own power anyway. So I might as well try to find it.
12/23/2009 02:20PM
I'm curious as to why somone who is bleeding would stick around, let alone go look for the pack when Yogi may to return to his "kill" at anytime. ?? Is the Bear danger really over?
12/23/2009 04:11PM
I had to think about this one for a bit.

No compass?

Yell for help… just in case somebody is around.

Due to the pain and blood the head would be addressed first. My best attempt at washing and bandaging with fist aid kit and spare clothes would have to do.

If I cannot get the bleeding to stop I put the canoe into Sarah and float out yelling and looking for help until I bleed out or find help. Heading back would require to much physical labor and increase the odds of bleeding to death.

If the bleeding is able to be stopped and I can get over the pain I head back in the direction I came from proceeding to North Bay by memory.

Having just been attacked by a bear I will admit that the fear level I will be experiencing would most likely make me unable to relax to the point I could sleep or go stomping off in the bush looking for my remaining gear. Something along those lines would most likely flip a phobic switch in my head and impair my ability to think too much. My thought would probably be something along the lines of “Get as far away from here as possible”. Maybe that is just me.

I would probably only stick to portages and lakes and at night, stay in a wide open areas with as much of a fire as I can muster and using the canoe for shelter if need be. I would doubt that I would have much of an appetite. .. so rationing what little I have to eat shouldn’t be a problem. If hunger is unbearable, there is plenty to eat if you are willing to stomach it. (Cattails, Cranberries, crayfish, etc)

Water would be dipped from a lake with my fancy new water bottle… a pitcher plant leaf… easily found in an open bog.

First party I see I hail them for help as I travel to PP.


12/23/2009 04:19PM
Any bear experts around here? Anyone actually experience a severe head injury? If a bear attacked but left you laying there for a while, what's the likelihood of him returning later for a meal? Agree that getting away is good idea, but if it's near dark and/or the head injury is just too intense, may have no choice but to sit tight with a fire. I'm not too worried about lacking a map--can probably retrace earlier route and the book has info if needed...With the head injury, not sure what my state of mind would be...sitting in my cozy warm house, I wonder if I could even think straight out there with a raging headache and a bear nearby...

If I ever do survive this one, the first lesson learned is don't try to steal food from Yogi...walk slowly the other way for awhile...
12/23/2009 06:32PM
I forgot to mention "Change my pants" as they would most likely be soiled.
12/24/2009 07:44AM
The compass comment reminded me of how instantly critical these can be. Both of my canoes have a small compass permanently mounted to the rear thwart.... I use these next to my map and GPS for navigation. In this scenario, I'd use the canoe compass to navigate South.

Another good idea - which I'm sure will be eventually be addressed in a 'lost in the wild' segment is having a compass always on your person. I have an old school Marbles pin on compass which I should have pinned to my shirt - these seem to no longer be made. Instead these are so cheap Pin on compass no excuse for everyone in the party not having one. This will spin into a discussion of what else you should always have on your person - (whistle, knife, waterproof fire starter, compass...?) Stay tuned.
12/24/2009 11:12AM
Should of bought more maps so you could put them all together so you "DON'T LOSE THEM"
12/24/2009 12:41PM
Hex -

Suunto has this wrist compass I cut the velcro wrist band shorter so it wraps tightly around the rear thwart. When reading the map (a bungee strap also on the rear thwart holds the map in place) all I have to do is glance over at the compass to verfiy my bearing. The Garmin 60cs GPS is also thwart mounted to the right and loaded with the right maps. Can you tell I'm slightly obsessive about not getting lost? PS. I have one attached to my Guide Pack and the #4 pack as well. I am probably overdoing it.
12/24/2009 12:47PM
Carabiner Compass

Buy a dozen and clip them to every pack!

I own a few and they are rock solid.
12/24/2009 12:50PM
Interesting compass comments. I always have one handy but rarely use it because I keep tabs on where I am using the map. In this situation, a compass would come in handy if it were overcast; otherwise, without a map, a general sense of direction would suffice.
12/24/2009 10:12AM
Very true. I always have a compass on me along with at least one spare in the pack. I have yet to mount one in my canoes but that is a good idea.
12/28/2009 12:29PM
I'd only spend 5 minutes addressing the head injury as time is limited. After a half ash bandage repair you must get back to Basswood before sundown (SW wind will tell you were south is). Once on Basswood the SW wind should calm down enough to paddle across it near sunset. Do not try and sleep before you get to safety because who knows when you'll wake up if at all with a large head injury. The concussion is the real issue not the external blood that you can see from the claws. Once on Basswood I'd look for a motor boat at one of the many campsites for help. Most important is that you dont fall asleep and just keep going till you find help. (don't take the tylenol as it might thin your blood) If you had simply just fainted, dust yourself off and leasuirly paddle back to ely.
02/25/2010 10:52AM
quote Windschill: "(don't take the tylenol as it might thin your blood)"

I think Tylenol is fine. Aspirin and Ibuprofen will thin your blood, but Tylenol will not.
12/21/2009 10:09AM
This is #7 of 10 Leadership Challenges I will be posting. The purpose of these is to get feedback on what you would do under these circumstances. I'm not looking for a "Right Answer" I'm looking to see how the many very knowledgeable people here on would react in a time of decision in Canoe Country.

Challenge #7: (Soloist – Bear Attack)

Situation: You are travelling solo in Quetico Provincial Park. You are on Day 3 of a 10 day solo trip. Your Canoe is Bell Magic. You have two packs and 2 paddles. You have been on 3 previous solo trips to Quetico; however, this is your first trip to this area of Quetico.

Your Current Location: You have just completed a series of very difficult portages from North Bay (Basswood Lake) through Isabella and Point Lakes and then through a series of unnamed lakes into Side Lake. You are double portaging to Sarah Lake (This is your entry point Lake) and have already taken Pack #1, your paddles/PFD and Map Case to the portage end at Sarah Lake. (See Red Flag on Photo below) and now are on the 2nd trip to Sarah with your Canoe and Pack #2

Please open photo/map now and study it closely, Take as much time as you want. But, once you close it you can’t open it again or you will be cheating.

Contents of Pack #1 (50lbs)

Two CCS Zippered Stuff Bags with all your food.

Your cook set and stove.

Your saw and camp Axe

Fire Grate (this is not the BWCA)

Your TAJ3 Tent

Your CCS Tarp

Your backup Maps and Compass

2 Nalgene bottles: 1 w/water, 1 w/Everclear

Your MSR water filter

Trowel and TP

Contents of Pack #2 (25lbs)

Rain Gear


Sleeping Bag

A Book (Paddlers Guide to Quetico Provincial Park by Robert Beymer without the Map in back?)

First Aid Kit (limited to a few bandages and generic Tylenol)

Personal Hygiene Kit (toothbrush, paste, comb, mirror, Tums)

Extra AA Batteries for your flashlight


50ft of paracord

6 pieces of beef jerky

1 large bag of peanut M&MS

On your belt you have knife, Leatherman style tool and a Mini-Mag Light.

In your pockets: Lighter, chewing gum, wallet with pictures of your Canoe.

*Note: You do not have a GPS, PLB, SAT Phone, iPOD, Watch or Fishing Equipment. (It’s just you and nature)

Additional Information: The current time is 11:45 AM. The Date is September 8, 2010. Sunset is at 7:36 PM, Twilight lasts until 8:07 PM. The Weather has gotten cooler and temps are in the mid 60s in the day and dipping into the low 40’s at night. The forecast for tomorrow is for even cooler temps and rain. Skies are currently partly cloudy clear with slight breeze with gusts 10-15 MPH from the SW.

The Challenge: As you complete the 2nd leg of your Portage into Sarah you see a BEAR tearing open your food pack. You toss off your canoe and rush towards your pack, screaming at the Bear.

As you get close to the Bear, the Bear attacks and swing’s his right Paw hitting you square on the side of your head, knocking you down the rocky sloped landing of the portage and partially into the water. You black out.

You awake sometime later. You are bleeding from deep claw slashes to your forehead and cheeks and the pain is intense. As you gather yourself, and you slowing crawl up the sloped rock, peeking over….. the Bear and your pack are gone.

You realize at this point that you are VERY lucky to even be alive. Had the Bear decided that you were more interesting than your Food Pack it would have been game over.

* Note: You have lost all your maps (map case was attached to Pack #1 during the portage)and your food and shelter are gone and.... You’re injured.

Now What?

No Drama here folks. You are in Trouble.

***Remember You can't go back and look at the Maps. They are gone.***

** Note: The Challenge Series is being condensed to 10 Challenges. On Christmas Day, I will Post my reflections on the past 10 challenges and what I learned. I would invite you to also post. I will also propose a plan for continuing the challenges that should please everyone, even those that don’t want to see them anymore”**

Remaining Challenges:

Challenge 8: “Big Waves and Big Booms”

Challenge 9: “Lost in the Q”

Challenge 10: “Emotional Rescue”

If you missed Leadership Challenge 1:

Bear Island

If you missed Leadership Challenge 2:

Destroyed Canoe

If you missed Leadership Challenge 3:

Broken Ankle

If you missed Leadership Challenge 4:

The Call

If you missed Leadership Challenge 5:

Group Separation

If you missed Leadership Challenge 6:

Party in Distress
12/21/2009 11:13AM

Early September, the Q starts to be completely empty. I'd take some Tylenol, use the bandaids and apply a cool wet compress - I'm going to need it.

I got knocked out cold - so the injury was significant.

Taking stock, I have a canoe, paddle, some food, plenty of water, rain gear.... and I need to see a Doctor pronto.

I'd do a brief search for the balance of the stolen pack (It would be nice to have the Everclear to try and cleanse the wounds, the axe and saw, tarp etc.) - looking along the shore of Sarah. I'm going to find some things with 100 yards.

Then I'd turn around and retrace my route back to Prairie Portage - 2-3 days travel in but I realistically think you could make it back to PP in 2 days.

I'm not going to be hungry, but the jerky and peanut M&Ms will keep me going.

The Beymer book, without his high level map, will need to serve as my guide out.

This is going to be painful, slow and tough and the days are getting shorter.
12/21/2009 12:15PM
Just a comment from reading these posts. I would want to look for the missing pack, too, but would be fearful of getting lost. I've read "Lost in the Wild" and realize it's easier than you think to get lost.
12/21/2009 11:08AM
What do I know?

-- I'm alive and not in immediate danger. I check my pupils and (I assume) there's no sign of concussion. There's no risk of arterial bleeding, since (a) I woke up and (b) my injuries are to my forehead and cheek.

-- I have my small pack, boat and paddles.

What do I do?

In order:

-- Check my head for lumps or other bleed sites. (I assume I find none.)

-- Wipe the blood off, clean whatever dirt there is out of the wounds, and bandage as needed or as well as possible. Take a couple Tylenol.

-- Collect my stuff in one place, sit down with it, and just breathe for a few minutes. Assess my general physical condition. I assume I find no broken bones or other serious injury.

-- See if I can find the bear's track and maybe retrieve the pack, or at least the map. (Yes, I know I don't find it, but at the time I would do my best to get it back.) I have to find a way to collect and store water; make a roughly conical drinking cup out of tree bark.

-- Using bark and a stick, draw as good a map as I can remember.

-- If it's getting toward dusk find a sheltered place and make a shelter using the boat, paddles, and pine or cedar boughs (wherever I can get them). Eat one piece of jerky and a handful of M&Ms, then hang them using the cord. Put all my clothes on and my rain gear (Gore-Tex, of course) on over them and hunker down for the night.

-- Next day try to find the map again, but failing that I head back, retracing my steps. On each lake I look for where I may have camped. At each portage I look for my footprints and any other sign I was there. Since I was double portaging my tracks should be all over the places where I was. Periodically call out in case anyone is nearby. Ration food - a few M&Ms in the morning and afternoon and a piece of jerky at night. This process will take some time because I have to cruise the shorelines looking for portage landings.

-- Update the bark map and make new ones during the return trip.
03/02/2010 12:47PM
quote nojobro: That said, that says nothing about the steps that need to be taken after sustaining an injury; it's just not going to be caused by a bear IMO. "

"Since 1900, there have been only 45-recorded deaths that were caused by black bears in the North America. This number is very minimal compared to the over 500 conflicts between black bears and humans from 1960 to 1980."

500 conflicts would indicate that this scenario is possible.

University of Washingtion Paper, Nick Paulson
Brown, G. 1993. The great bear almanac. Lyon and Burford, New York.

Herrero, S. 1985. Bear attacks: Their causes and avoidance. Nick Lyons Books, New York.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (2002). Living with wildlife in Washington: Black Bears Retrieved October 13th, 2002;

02/25/2010 10:43AM
After following Lily at the North American Bear Center and reading the updates that they post there (pretty much daily...I am a fan of Lily on Facebook and get the updates that way) I have to say I think the initial premise of this situation is flawed. It is EXTREMELY unlikely that the bear would attack.

That said, that says nothing about the steps that need to be taken after sustaining an injury; it's just not going to be caused by a bear IMO. Read the updates...very informative. I can't find a direct link to them all. If you are on Facebook, become a fan of Lily's and then read them all there. Or search the NABC website. The bear will still steal your food, though. ;-)
02/25/2010 02:37PM
quote nojobro: "quote Windschill: "(don't take the tylenol as it might thin your blood)"

I think Tylenol is fine. Aspirin and Ibuprofen will thin your blood, but Tylenol will not."

Correct - Tylenol does not cause blood thinning. Asprin does, and from what I've read, it takes large quantities of ibuprofen to cause the blood to thin (ie: 800mg 3x/day).

I'm not a pharmacist or a doctor, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night ;)

12/30/2009 01:42PM

If I had my wits about me, I would address the head wound first and get some Tylenol into me. I'm thinking it would probably take at least an hour for the Tylenol to do any good at all. I would spend that hour looking for the pack and maps being careful to always know how to get back to the canoe. All that done, it would be about 1;30, plenty of time to slowly make my way back to Basswood. If nothing else, I should be able to make it to North Bay and find someone there who may be able to better dress the wounds and get me to Basswood where I would do what Windschill suggests.
01/05/2010 03:46PM
Second reponse after reading the others:

It seems that I underestimated the risks of the head injury....

I guesss I would try to stay awake and find help on Sarah. If I can't find any help, I would continue with my original plan.
01/05/2010 03:38PM
The very first thing i would do is asess my physical condition. Am i still bleeding first and foremost, check out my wounds then start putting together a game plan. If my pack is not in sight within a reasonable distance of camp them im going to abandon it because i dont want round two with the bear plus the more important of the two packs is still with you. If you have your wits about you then its time to retrace your path and start heading back. If you have your canoe paddles and your other gear then its time to bolt. Food is not an issue because your only a couple days out, and as long as you can collect or boil water to get fresh water than your good to go. This is a slow time up there but you should definitely keep an eye out for other campers on your way back. I personally try to keep a mental image of where im going just in case you should ever lose your map, especially if im going somewhere ive never been before. If i didnt mention it already i would be popping tylenol like candy. Im not too concerned about being concussed because since i woke up from being blacked out the immediate danger has passed. You should be able to make good time because you will be beelining towards your basswood look for any signs of people once you got there.
01/05/2010 03:22PM
Initial response without reading the others:

Let me assess the situation to make get my bearings:
- It is some time after noon.
- I have my canoe, paddle, PFD.
- I also have some basic gear.
- I have no shelter and minimal food.
- I have NO maps.
- There is a bear somewhere nearby.

First, gather all your gear and canoe in one location.
Second, sit for a good while. Calm down. Don't panic. Think through all the options.

Now, I am foolish but I would make a limited attempt at finding my pack. It is quite likely that the bear just drug it a short ways away, took the food, and left.

Assuming that I find my pack, I would continue with my trip.

Assuming that I can not find my pack or get too scared (or smart) to do a thorough search, I reevaluate.

Sarah lake seems big. I would gather my gear and paddle around Sarah. I would hope to find another group that could at least let me review their map. Either way, I would spend the night one Sarah.

In the morning, I would look around again for other folks on Sarah.
I would also go back tot he portage and look for my pack again.

Then, I would head back to my entry point using the way I came in. That seems like the best option without a map.

12/21/2009 10:36AM
First I think I need to get a look at my head. Fortunately I have a mirror. If it is terrible and I am likely going to bleed to death with out help I would start yelling hopping that there is some one on Sarah to help me (I keep a whistle on me, but I didn't notice one in the list). If it is not too bad, I would either head for any activity (other campers) I could see, or head to the last place I saw any one and try to get some one to look at my head and make sure they think the same as I do.

Head injuries are funny. You can feel good one moment and be lost the next. I wouldn't want to be alone.
12/21/2009 11:51AM
Assess the injuries first (One swat to the side of the head shouldn't be that serious) - mirror maybe but a better choice will be using the digital camera. Take pictures and view them closely. Make sure the bleeding has stopped and is clean enough to cover. Assuming that the injuries are surficial only, I wrap my injuries. Next is to start a fire and dry my clothes, read up in my book for advice, and try to find the pack that the bear took. Bears won't stop real close so this will be futile but I will look anyways. I do know that they will head for heavy cover, swamp, and the deepest ravines that they can find. (I have explored a few on Alton and found 3 ripped up packs back in one ravine) If I can't find my stuff within a couple hours I consider them gone.
I like the map idea - drawing what you remember before you leave is a good idea although the planning of this trip started 9 months ago and you know the route. I will drink from Lake Sarah and maybe Side Lake but would try to make it back to Point Lake before I drink again.
Sleep under the canoe with my raingear over sleeping bag. I sleep on the portage/trail and I don't waste time while getting back to either my vehicle or until I find someone to help me.
The good news is that it is 2 days after Labor Day so there should still be a few people around to help you out.
12/21/2009 04:09PM
Kanoes goes off, finds the pack, all the food is in a bear barrel, proceeds to make camp (after fixing the tent with his sewing skills), and waits to be rescued knowing full well that by not posting to 5 minutes after his expected return a full search and rescue will be started.
12/21/2009 04:44PM
12/22/2009 07:46AM
Short answer: You need to get out as soon as possible. Being knocked out is pretty serious stuff. Worst case scenario: you have an intracranial bleed that has stopped...temporarily....I guess if it is going to restart it probably doesn't matter what you do. But that is only the worst case scenario and will likely not happen.

I would head back the way I came, looking for help along the way.
12/22/2009 02:41AM
Great ideas here. I definitely agree that this is a good reason to always have a whistle on you. Light weight, not electronic, get the kayaking type that are super loud. I might have started by trying to scare the bear off with it.

Seems worth moving back toward the entry in a slow and deliberate manner (to avoid getting lost) as little is to be gained by sitting still.

When sitting still, could go for a smoky fire although I wonder if anyone would really notice.

Use the paracord to flag trees to help retrace routes if necessary. Maybe also use pages of the book that are for different areas. Yes, leaving a trace but under the circumstances maybe ok. You can come back next year and clean up.

Try to leave notes if possible.

12/23/2009 09:10AM
Thanks for the Challenge series, Bojibob....breaks up the monotony of winter. As a fellow retired military (22 yrs USAF), you've given all of us lots of interesting views to ponder...

Seems to me your greatest threats are the head injury and hypothermia (or the bear if it comes back, but let's assume it's long gone). Not being a doc, I'd try to clean the wounds as best I could and guess I'd know how bad it was if I was really hurting and unable to get around much. Hypothermia worries me alot. I've done this particular route a couple times over the years and know this portage is a main thoroughfare between North Bay and Sarah. So even in Sep, I could probably expect someone to come by within a few days. The question is whether I should stay put or head back. It takes about 1 day of travel (without a head injury) between Sarah and North Bay.
Option 1: I'm unable to get around or sunset is within an hour or two. I'd get a fire started if possible and do a quick search for the missing pack. Failing to find it, I'd use the canoe as shelter. If it rains the next day, I'm going to be in a world of hurt trying to keep a fire going and staying dry. Worst case is I'm too injured to travel and I'm going to have to stay put, stay dry, and wait for rescue.
Option 2: I'm able to travel but sunset is coming soon. Build a fire, quick search for pack, hunker under the canoe and head to North Bay the next morning.
Option 3: I'm able to travel and was out only an hour or so. Clean wounds, quick search for missing pack, then head back to Side Lake campsite and get fire/shelter started. Get to North Bay next morning.

Probably choose Option 2.
01/02/2010 11:06PM
wrap the wound as needed.

almost OD on tylenol, id take 4, cause the pain is going to come eventually.

youre only 3 days in, you better be able to remember the way out w/o a map.

food? non issue. youre in survival mode now.

with the rush of adrenilin...the three days in will become 2 days out...easily.

obviously, look for help on the way out.

(just for you rob) hah
01/07/2010 10:48AM
Jayhawk, great idea to check the camera.

You have an extra car key in a little box wired to the car's frame, so that's no problem.
01/07/2010 08:54AM
Take care if the injury first. Clean & cut any extra clothing into strips for bandages. Count out the Tylenol & figure out a reasonable ration for the next few days ( I know I'll nedd a couple each night ). Play some mental gymnastics. Can I name all my nieces & nephews? ...can I think rationally right now?

I'm single portaging at this point so after a limited search for the lost pack I'd gather the remaining gear & start back. One maybe two portages back leaving enough time to build a solid shelter with para chord, sticks & pine boughs. Build a fire, have some water, a small snack & get some rest.

Check my camera to see if I can find some reference points from the previous 3 days. I typically take photos of my portages. Travel as far as I feel comfortable. Find food. Whittle a spear tip from my comb. Check under a few rocks for crayfish. Mark my trail as I go.

Stay alert working my way back looking for food & building solid shelters. Keep tabs on that lighter to make sure it has enough fuel for several extra days. Make large ( safe ) fires to draw attention.

BTW which pack contains my car keys???