A tragic incident unfolded in Banff National Park west of Sundre, Alberta, as a grizzly bear attacked and killed two individuals on a Friday night, as reported by Parks Canada.
The victims in this heart-wrenching event were a husband and wife, as confirmed by Kim Titchener, founder of Bear Safety and More, who was a close friend of the family. Adding to the tragedy, the couple’s dog, which had accompanied them, also lost its life in the attack.
Titchener, who knew the family well, described them as seasoned outdoor enthusiasts with a strong familiarity with venturing into the wilderness. Learning about the incident on Saturday afternoon, she expressed deep sympathy for the family, recognizing the profound shock they must be experiencing.
Parks Canada was alerted to the bear attack via a GPS device in the Red Deer River Valley, located west of Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, around 8 p.m. on Friday. Natalie Fay, external relations manager for the Banff field unit, stated that a specialized wildlife attack response team was promptly dispatched. However, unfavorable weather conditions prevented the use of helicopters, necessitating a ground-based response that lasted through the night. The response team ultimately reached the site at 1 a.m., where they tragically discovered the two deceased victims.
During their presence in the area, the response team encountered a grizzly bear exhibiting aggressive behavior. In the interest of public safety, Parks Canada staff made the difficult decision to euthanize the bear on the spot. RCMP arrived at 5 a.m. to facilitate the transportation of the victims to Sundre, Alberta.
Parks Canada extended its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims, recognizing the profound sadness of the situation.
Bear attacks resulting in fatalities are exceedingly rare, accounting for only 14% of such incidents globally, according to Titchener. Typically, encounters between humans and grizzly bears involve the bear retreating in one direction while people go the other way. Fatalities involving all parties are exceptionally uncommon.
While details of the incident are not yet known, Titchener noted that most bear attacks are triggered by unexpected encounters. It is plausible that the couple encountered the bear while hiking or setting up camp, especially considering that carnivores tend to be more active during dusk.
At this time of year, bears are in a phase known as hyperphagia, marked by an increased appetite as they prepare for hibernation. While Titchener clarified that there is no direct link between this period and an uptick in bear attacks on humans, it is worth noting that bears are actively seeking food. They forage for root systems and search for remaining grasses and berries to store those crucial last few pounds before heading into hibernation.
Although some bears begin to hibernate in mid-October, larger bears can remain active until December, emphasizing the importance of recognizing that it is still bear season in the province. Vigilance and bear safety measures remain paramount when exploring bear country.