A retired veterinarian couple from Colorado Springs, Colorado, were well-prepared for their 40-day paddling/camping excursion across Canadian tundra, having meticulously gone over their plans and made sure to pack everything they might need.
Both Kerri and Todd Mozinski were also prepared to recognize signs of wildlife and knew how to properly set up their camp to protect it against dangerous wildlife.
They set up their tent, food storage and cooking areas in a triangle, each location 300 feet from the others and had packed meals that weren’t especially odorous.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, the couple also packed bear spray, although Todd said that it was “to check that box on the gear list,” not because they were expecting to actually have a run-in with the dangerous native.
The first few days of their trip went according to plan, but on July 15, five days into their expedition, trouble appeared.
When the couple arrived at their campsite for the night, Todd spotted bear tracks.
“We landed and got all our stuff on shore, and the first thing we see is grizzly bear tracks,” Todd said, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
“We checked the area — everything was fine, no sign of anything,” Kerri said.
That all changed during dinner when Todd spotted the animal only 20 feet away.
“He looks up at me, he looks behind me, and he says, ‘Grizzly,'” Kerri recalled. “We jump up, we get out of the tent, we grabbed the bear spray. And the grizzly, he just came right in our little area and walked right up to the tent.”
“He stood up, and he was just towering over (Todd),” she continued. “He was sniffing the air, he was moving his mouth and pulling his lips back. We could see his teeth and everything.”
As the bear approached, Todd sprayed it and it backed off before coming back and getting sprayed a second time. The Mozinskis knew that their location was compromised, so they made arrangements to leave.
But the bear had made escape impossible.
As they carefully made their way to their sleeping area, keeping an eye on the bear that was circling them at a distance, they realized he’d already been there. The tent was slashed, the poles broken.
When they went to find their lightweight canoe, they found that the bear had already been there as well — and their gear was destroyed. The canoe itself was useless, pieces of it scattered around.
Nighttime was coming, and the couple didn’t know where to go. They were trapped, and while the grizzly didn’t approach them again that night, he stayed nearby.
“We knew that at the end of the rapids there was a lake,” Kerri said. “There was no place else to go.”
Realizing they were out of options, they turned to the SOS button on their Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator which notified local authorities of the stranded couple. Soon, arrangements were made to airlift them out once the sun rose.
“They were very, very helpful, and they were very, very quick,” Kerri said. “I was put in contact with the RCMP, and they told us to sit tight as long as we were safe, and in the morning (they would) have someone sent out either by plane or helicopter.”
The Mozinskis knew that if it weren’t for their Garmin, no one would have known about their struggle until a month later. The ending to their story could have been much worse if they hadn’t brought it along.
The bear reappeared one more time in the morning before Kerri and Todd were rescued after their 17-hour ordeal, but despite the close encounter, the couple still plans to make up their trip later.
“It was shocking, but the other thing was it was beautiful, too,” Kerri said. “It was an incredible animal, and the tundra is just amazing.”
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