Pacer, a border collie, proved to be the ultimate running companion on a recent trail run in northern British Columbia. Reid Roberts, a 46-year-old teacher and resident of Prince George, B.C., encountered a black bear shortly into a training run and credits his dog as the “true hero” in helping save his life.
Roberts was running in Forests for the World, a provincial park located in Prince George close to the University of Northern British Columbia on Tuesday, May 17. Shortly after leaving the parking lot, around approximately 4 p.m. local time, Roberts and his border collie encountered a black bear, the mother of two cubs.
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A few days prior, Roberts and Pacer also had a run-in with a bear in a nearby area of Prince George. That time, however, Pacer chased off the bear. This time proved to be different.
“She came out right away in attack mode,” describes Roberts of the bear. “She had no option for a bluff. She locked in on me right away with head down staring at me. I’m not sure how I ended up on the ground off the trail but I remember her swatting at me like dogs do with their front paws when playing with another dog. I just started kicking at her while I was on my back. Immediately Pacer came at her barking and biting.”
The bear chased after the border collie for a moment but returned to Roberts, as did Pacer once again. With an open gash on his hand, Roberts was able to move behind a tree as the bear, for the second and final time, chased Pacer off into the distance allowing Roberts to gather himself.
The first person Roberts called was his trail running friend Jeff Hunter but the call went to voicemail. Next, Roberts got through to 911 (and stopped his GPS watch between calls).
Roberts informed 911 of his location and made his way to the parking lot with his shirt wrapped around his hand. He would later need 16 stitches.
When he arrived at the parking lot, Roberts needed to find Pacer. Fortunately, when the ambulance arrived, so did his friend Hunter, who informed Roberts that Pacer was safe.
The border collie ran to Hunter’s house, not uncommon for Pacer as Roberts says that “we often run to Jeff’s house and he has two dogs that join us. Pacer has run to and from that location numerous times and will start to head to his house even when I run by Jeff’s road.” The house Pacer ran to was about two kilometres from the bear encounter.
“Pacer is fine and truly my hero,” says Roberts. The teacher, who is now out of the hospital, will be off work from D.P. Todd Secondary for at least a week as he undergoes a series of antibiotic treatments. He hopes to be back on the trails soon. According to the Vancouver Sun, Roberts was not carrying bear spray though he says he would not have been able to use it because the incident happened so quickly and there wasn’t enough time to remove the spray from its holster.
Roberts is an experienced trail runner who runs thousands of kilometres on the local trails each year. Roberts says that he got Pacer when he was a one-year-old and he was trained as a working dog.
The mother bear was euthanized by conservation officers. The two cubs were transported to Northern Lights Wildlife Society, a juvenile wildlife rehabilitation centre, in nearby Smithers, B.C.
Up next for Roberts is the Fat Dog 120-miler in E. C. Manning Provincial Park, B.C.