Stranded camper saved from starvation

Posted at 10:15 AM, Nov 03, 2013

(CNN) — If Marco Lavoie had not been rescued when he was, the Quebec man probably would have perished within 48 hours.

He was hypothermic, dehydrated and near starvation in the unforgiving cold of northwestern Quebec when police rescued him Wednesday.

Lavoie’s survival might be called miraculous, as he had been in the wilderness for more than three months.

The 44-year-old is an experienced outdoorsman, but an encounter with a bear changed his luck, Quebec police said

At some point during a planned two-month canoe trek in the Lake Matagami area, a bear attacked Lavoie’s campsite, eating his food and ruining his equipment, police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe said.

The bear did not injure Lavoie but left him without the tools or resources to survive. Police say they have yet to speak with Lavoie to get details.

“In these parts, there’s a subculture of people who go on these long trips into the middle of nowhere, but sometimes we forgot how dangerous it can be,” Gerald Lemoine, mayor of a small town near Matagami, told the Montreal Gazette.

The rescued canoeist began his adventure July 16, Coulombe said. It wasn’t until three months later, on October 21, that his family called authorities because too long had passed without Lavoie’s return.

Police conducted searches for eight days, weather permitting, with no luck.

Rescuers in a helicopter finally spotted Lavoie on Wednesday, but they could not safely land at that spot, Coulombe said. So officers had to hike in to pick him up and carry him more than a mile to the chopper.

Lavoie’s condition was such that he was barely able to speak and at first couldn’t even drink water, the Gazette reported.

Had he spent another day or two in the elements, he would have starved to death, police spokesman Ronald McInnis said.

The man had lost half of his body weight, he said.

It was Lavoie’s German shepherd who scared the bear away on the day of the attack, but the dog did not survive the ordeal, McInnis said.

“Up there, in the Canadian shield, there’s little plant life to live off, so he would have been slowly, painfully dying when they found him. It’s an amazing feat that he was able to keep himself alive this long with almost no equipment,” survival instructor Caleb Musgrave told the Gazette.

“When you start to go hungry, you get mood swings, your mind breaks, and you cramp up all over your body. Eventually, your body will start cannibalizing itself, eating away at the fat in your organs and then in your muscles. It takes someone who won’t give up in the face of that,” he added.

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