Randal Warnock from Qualicum Beach is recovering at home after being attacked by a bear (not the one pictured here) north of Vancouver Island Monday, July 17. File photo

Man attacked by grizzly bear north of Van. Island

BC Ferry captain says punching bear in nose helped save his life

An evening stroll along the beach is not usually this dangerous.

Qualicum Beach man and BC Ferries captain Randal Warnock is resting up at home after being attacked by a juvenile grizzly bear while taking a stroll on a small island north of Vancouver Island near the mainland on Monday, July 17.

On his way to captain a ferry run between Bella Coola and Bella Bella, Warnock said he left Port Hardy on his boat Monday morning, and was just north of Cape Caution at about 6 p.m. when the weather started getting rough.

So he anchored his boat in Millbrook Cove, and thought he’d stretch his legs with a walk on the beach of a small island just off the coast.

He figures the wind and noise of the waves on the beach might have contributed to his accidentally startling a juvenile grizzly bear after picking up a discarded buoy to re-use.

“I turn around and like a foot away from where I picked up the buoy, a grizzly bear charged out of the bush, full bore, straight at me, and was on me within a couple of seconds,” said Warnock.

“First thing I thought was, ‘Ah sh*t, is this how it’s all going to end?’”

After not getting a good grip on his left leg, the grizzly clamped down on his right knee and started shaking him violently, he said.

“I’m yelling and screaming at him (then I) remembered I had a knife. I’ve got to protect myself somehow and fight back, so I pull my knife out but I was off balance, he was shaking me. I dropped the knife.”

But, with the bear’s face below and in front of him, Warnock decided bare hands would have to do.

“I just hauled off and punched him hard as I could right on the nose, and that stopped him,” he said.

The bear reared up and stared at him from about two feet away. When it made to lunge at him, Warnock fell backwards onto a bank, grabbed a log and tried to hurl it at the bear, but it slipped and dropped between them, he said. But that was enough. The bear turned and ran away.

From there, Warnock said he hobbled back to his skiff, dripping blood, got back to his boat and bandaged himself up.

Knowing that the area has little to no radio reception, he travelled about an hour to get a radio signal and contact the coast guard.

John Millman, a Maritime Co-ordinator at the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria, said the centre got the call from Victoria Coast Guard Radio North, and sent two vessels out to get him. By about 9 p.m., the coast guard reached Warnock, one vessel taking him aboard and medevacing him to Port Hardy, the other taking control of his vessel on his behalf to pilot it back.

The most painful part of the whole ordeal was the stitches and cleaning of his wounds, said Warnock, adding doctors were done with him by about 3 a.m.

Warnock returned home to Qualicum Beach Thursday evening, and said he’s expected to make a full recovery and have full use of his leg.

Overall, he said, it’s “not too bad compared to what it could have been … I feel very lucky.”

Asked if he has a takeaway from all of this, he said he’ll be on the lookout for bears in the future, carry bear spray, and stay away from remote mainland beaches on the north coast, especially ones near salmon rivers.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: University of Northern B.C. moves to virtual grad celebration

The College of New Caledonia and Thompson Rivers University have cancelled their events

COVID-19: Northern Health moving into next phases of pandemic planning

Northern Health is working closely with the First Nations Health Authority

‘It’s job No. 1 right now’: B.C.’s Harmac Pacific providing pulp for critical medical supplies

Bryan Reid Sr. of Williams Lake said they received a call of thanks from Canada’s Chrystia Freeland

COVID-19: Central Mountain Air suspending flights, effective April 11

The airline is suspending scheduled flights through to June 7

UPDATED: Rocky Mountaineer delays season until July 1

The popular luxury train had previously suspended operations through April due to COVID-19

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Most Read