“Spring is here, and the bears are out.”
That, from Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff National Park.
Hunt and his team recently investigated a close encounter a Canmore woman had with a grizzly bear on Saturday, April 15.
The woman was kick-sledding with two dogs along the Spray River Loop, southeast of the Town of Banff, when she noticed she was being followed.
“She heard a loud sound behind her, it sounded like a large animal coming up behind her, turned and looked back and there was a grizzly bear with a collar loping behind her, following her sled,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the animal, identified as bear 148, was likely curious more than anything.
“For a bear coming out in the spring and suddenly seeing two dogs tied to a sled cruising by, I’m sure the bear was very curious. And anytime you have a motion like that, whether it’s biking, running, skiing – something moving fast – can elicit a chase response,” Hunt said.
“At some point she started yelling and being more aggressive, and actually throwing things at the bear, and typically the advice is you only do that when you think the bear is definitely being very, very aggressive towards you in a predatory way, rather than curious or startled. So she, in her mind, had made the decision the bear was being more than just curious. And that worked in this case, so well done.”
Hunt said the woman had bear spray with her, but didn’t have to deploy it.
He said bear warnings that were put up in the area immediately after the incident have been taken down, since bear 148 has moved on. It was seen Thursday near Vermillion Lakes, and is believed to be roaming through the Bow Valley.
Hunt said the bear has never been a problem in the past.
“It’s a female, she’s lived in the Bow Valley for many years – has had a lot of encounters with people over the years – I’ve personally encountered her on my road bike on the Legacy Trail, and she’s fairly communicative with people, so if you come upon her she’ll snort and huff and paw at the air and give you an indication that she wants you to back off,” he said.
“But in all that time we’ve never had any really negative encounters, she’s fairly tolerant of people, but she does let you know that you’re in her space.”
Hunt expects bear 148 will continue to move in and around the Bow Valley.
He said people who venture into bear country need to know the animals are out and about. Hunt recommends people carry bear spray, travel in groups of four or more, and make noise while hiking or biking to avoid any surprise encounters.
As for the woman who had the close encounter – “I’m sure she’ll remember it,” Hunt said.