Grizzly bear kills couple and a dog in Banff National Park

Grizzly bear Photo by Georgia Evans/Shutterstock

A grizzly bear is believed to have killed two hikers and their dog in Banff National Park, Parks Canada said in a statement.

At around 8 p.m. on September 29, Parks Canada received an SOS alert from an in Reach/GPS device indicating a bear attack. Park staff traced the alert to the Red Deer River Valley, west of Ya Ha Tinda Ranch within the park.

Parks Canada mobilized its Wildlife Human Attack Response Team, but poor weather prevented the team from helicoptering into the site. Instead, they were forced to travel into the park at night by foot.

The team arrived at the alert coordinates around 1 a.m. At the site, they found two dead hikers and a dead dog. While surveying the area, the team also encountered a grizzly bear displaying aggressive behaviour. The team euthanized the bear out of concern for public safety.

The team stayed with the bodies until 5 a.m. when the RCMP arrived. From there they were taken to the nearby town of Sundre.

“This is a tragic incident, and Parks Canada wishes to express its sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims,” the agency said.

As a safety precaution, Parks Canada has closed the Red Deer and Panther valleys, which stretch from Snow Creek Summit east to the National Park boundary, and north to Shale Pass. The area will remain closed until further notice. Anyone who violates the closure can be fined up to $25,000 under the Canada National Parks Act.

Parks Canada estimates that there are approximately 691 grizzly bears living in Alberta, with 65 of them residing in Banff National Park. While grizzly bear attacks are rare, they have been known to happen if people surprise the bear, or if the bear sees the person as a threat to its food source or cubs. During the fall, these types of encounters are more likely as bears are in search of food in preparation for hibernation.

To avoid bear encounters, Parks Canada recommends travelling in large groups, making lots of noise, keeping your dog on a leash, and staying on marked paths. If you do encounter a bear, speak to the bear in a calm but firm voice, letting it know you’re human and not animal prey. Don’t make any sudden movements. Instead, back away slowly. Make yourself appear big by staying in a group and pick up any children or dogs. Finally, do not drop your pack as it can provide protection if the bear attacks.

If the bear continues to approach, use bear spray to scare it off. In the rare occurrence that a grizzly bear does attack you, lie on your stomach with your hands linked behind your head and play dead. This makes it harder for the bear to flip you over while protecting your face, neck, and the back of your head. According to Parks Canada, these types of attacks last less than two minutes. Stay still until you’re certain the bear has left the area.

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