I’ve been riding my mountain bike up the trails around Powell River for about five years. We are truly blessed to have such nice trails and volunteers who maintain the trails and build new ones.
People ask if I see bears, cougars or other wildlife while riding and if I’m worried about it. My answer is no. In the five years, I’ve seen three bears, one wolf, a few grouse and some deer. Most of the problems I have are with people walking their dogs. While riding the trails, it is fair game for everyone and most people do not have their dogs on a leash, and why should they?
You’re in the bush, a good place for a dog to run around free at will. I have no issue with that.
But in the five years, I’ve been charged, chased, barked at and bit once on the calf, which was not pleasant. The dog was sniffing on the side of the road and the owners were in their car driving slowly.
Once I saw the dog, I slowed my pace. When it saw me, it charged until reaching me, and took a good snip while I was pedalling slowly. I felt the pain right away but kept on pedalling.
It happened so fast the owners did not have to get out of their car to control their dog. All I received for my trouble was “sorry” from the owners. I was frustrated but let it go and kept going.
I told myself that was not going to happen again. I went to the local outdoor store and bought some bear spray and a can of dog deterrent pepper spray, which I have been carrying at all times.
I hadn’t used either one since the biting incident in July 2018, until recently when I was charged by a dog again. I have learned my lesson to get off the bike and keep it between me and the animal.
As the dog came close it was barking voraciously and trying to get around to get to me. At that point I lost my patience, pulled out the repellent and let him have a whiff. To my surprise it worked; the barking stopped instantly, but to the dismay of the owner who was slowly walking up the trail.
The owner asked me what I did, what I used and why I would do that to a friendly dog. “Have a nice day,” I said, and carried on.
A lot can be said as to why dogs react a certain way when seeing someone on the trails. They protect their owners from any dangerous wildlife or whatever else. Some trails are quiet and narrow and it happened to be a surprise encounter. All dogs react differently.
It is never a pleasant experience to be barked at or chased. Bike riders do not bring this upon themselves. Dog owners have a hard time admitting their dog is doing something wrong.
I hope I won’t have to use either spray again, but I know dog versus bike rider encounters will continue to happen.
Let’s all share the trails peacefully.
Pat Matte is a Powell River resident.