Mate-seeking grouse terrorizes hikers on popular Alberta trail

Blue grouse

Most people know just how dangerous it is to be around a rutting moose, but what about a grouse looking for a mate?

They might not be as powerful as the large mammal, but when it comes to defending their territory, they can get pretty aggressive. A dusky grouse—also known as a blue grouse—has reportedly been terrorizing hikers in southern Alberta. Standing a mere 30 centimetres high, it went after four full-grown women last week.

The women were hiking Canmore’s Montane Trail on Monday when they encountered the bird, who’s now in mating season.

“I honestly didn’t think anything of it,” Andrea Barns, one of the hikers, told the Calgary Eyeopener. “Until he started to march towards us. And I mean march. His head was down; his wings were back. He was heading straight for us.”

Barnes’ three friends went screaming up a hill, leaving her to fend off the bird herself—and it wasn’t about to back down. Barnes grabbed a stick to defend herself, but it wasn’t enough to sway the bird.

“He kept coming in, he wanted to poke and peck,” she said. Barnes started walking backwards, before turning and making a run for it. The bird chased all four of them down the trail, until it eventually lost interest.

But Barnes and her friends weren’t the only ones to encounter the territorial bird. According to reports, others have been accosted by a grouse on Montane Trail, too. Barnes, who works as an education specialist with Alberta Parks, told CBC News that she’s heard stories of it going after cyclists. Apparently the town of Canmore is “abuzz with bird talk.”

The grouse has become so notorious, in fact, that Alberta Parks actually issued a warning to other hikers and bikers in the area, advising them to “travel with caution and keep dogs on leash at all times.”

While Barnes admits the threat may be more psychological than anything, it was enough for her and her friends to take a different route on their hike back.