Lea McCroy has good reason to never step foot in the woods again — in 2005, her mother died in a grizzly bear attack. Yet the 17-year-old runner still goes out jogging in the forests near Canmore where she lives, an activity that recently led her to have her own grizzly experience, and taught her a bit about what her mother may have gone through.
McCroy was running when she heard a crashing in the forest and found herself face-to-face with a grizzly. It was “just standing there huffing and puffing,” she told the CBC.
McCroy knows the rules of bear safety, but on this particular run she had broken all the rules. She was out alone and had left her bear spray in the car. And while she was well-educated on bear safety and knew she was supposed to back away slowly, her fear overcame her and she took off running.
“I was just so scared,” she said. “I thought that was going to be it, ‘What are the chances that this is going to happen to me, too? I’m not dying today. I’m not dying today.'”
McCroy’s mother, Isabelle Dube, was killed in 2005 when she and two friends came across a grizzly bear. Dube climbed a tree, but was pulled down by the bear. Her friends ran for help, but Dube had been killed by the time help came.
McCroy said that seeing a bear herself gave her some perspective on her mother’s encounter. “I was thinking, in some ways, that this was what my mom was thinking,” she said. “I was thinking maybe I was weak. The bear wasn’t even doing anything and I was running away and being frantic while my mom stood her ground and fought for her life.”
It turns out the bear McCroy ran into was likely the notorious Bear 148, who has been threatened with euthanization due to her run-ins with humans.
And while the encounter was frightening, McCroy said the bear did not pursue her, she does not want the encounter to be a black mark on the bear’s record.
“I want to protect the bears. I don’t want people to hurt them. I don’t want them to die because of humans,” she said. “There’s obviously territorial bears up there. I hope she can stand her ground and live her life.”