Riley Teufel’s early morning walk turned into a nightmare after a terrifying encounter with a bear forced him to play dead on the side of the road.
Teufel, 19, was walking towards the Sportsplex on South Alder Street about 9 a.m. last Saturday morning when he heard a rustling in the bushes.
Assuming it was a deer, Teufel was surprised to see a bear emerge from the trail between Candy Lane and the Sportsplex bike bath.
“It was fairly big, bigger than me,” Teufel said. “I thought ‘what am I going to do’ and then as I thought that, it started to come towards me so I threw the apple that I had with me and I thought it would go after the apple.”
But the bear, which Teufel said had brown fur, wasn’t interested in the apple and instead kept coming closer and closer.
In a moment of panic, Teufel couldn’t remember whether to run or lie down when encountering a bear.
“Initially my first response was ‘I can sprint fairly well’ but then looking at the size of the bear, I knew it would outrun me so I lay down on the sidewalk and just played dead,” Teufel said. “I thought ‘is this the end?’ and all of a sudden I could feel the bear’s breath on my face and a terrible smell – it smelled awful.”
For about one agonizing minute, the bear sniffed Teufel from his head all the way down to his feet before he heard the bear walk away towards the apple he had thrown.
“I heard the crunching but I then I opened my eyes and I could see he still wasn’t leaving.
The entire time I just kept thinking, ‘go away, go away’ and then finally I heard a car revving its engine and a horn honking,” Teufel said.
Two men driving down the street saw Teufel lying on the ground and the bear nearby and thought he had been mauled. Teufel said one of the men jumped out of the car and ran over to check that he was okay.
“I told him I was fine but I was in such shock that I didn’t even thank the guy and I feel awful about that,” Teufel said. “I want to say thank you to both of them for scaring off the bear because I didn’t get a chance to.”
Teufel said he’s not sure what type of bear it was that gave him such a scare but said it didn’t look like the black bears he’s seen in the past. He was also surprised at how brazen the bear was considering he didn’t see any cubs nearby.
“They’re not usually very aggressive,” Teufel said. “Most bears don’t do much when you see them in the wild but this one came right out to me and was definitely curious because it sniffed me quite a lot – they don’t do that too often.”
This is the second time in recent months that a bear has been spotted in the area. A bear sighting was posted at the Sportsplex disc golf course at the end of July.
According to Parks Canada, if you see a bear you should never run away but stop and remain calm – screams or sudden movements may trigger an attack. Speak calmly and firmly to the bear, make yourself look big and back away slowly. If the bear is unaware of your presence, quietly move away without getting its attention.