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Bear Attack

Lisa Sygutek

Oct 4, 2023

Last Friday two hikers died in the Red Deer River Valley from a bear attack. The couple were hiking when the event took place.

Last Friday two hikers died in the Red Deer River Valley from a bear attack. The couple were hiking when the event took place. The Banff field unit received a GPS alert at 8 pm indicating a bear attack. A specially trained team mobilized reaching the area at 1 am, finding the two individuals deceased and encountering an aggressive grizzly bear which they euthanized. 

 As we all know I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in the back country here in the Crowsnest Pass. In that time, I’ve run into three bears, two black and one grizzly, and was followed down a trail by a cougar. 

I have a healthy respect for bears. My house is in a cul-de-sac in Blairmore beside the Pass Powderkeg Ski Area and just up from Lyons Creek. We seem to be located along a wildlife corridor between the creek and the forest reserve. 

When we bought the house sixteen years ago, my first experience with the local wildlife was when we heard a screaming sound in the back yard, to look out the window to see a cougar attacking a deer not more than 20 feet from our deck. We watched the cougar, with the deer in its jaws, jump our 10-foot fence, taking the deer to the creek to kill it. 

Since that time, we had a mother moose in the yard, several deer, a family of skunks, and many bears (at least one bear a year).

The Crowsnest Pass is getting busier and we’re seeing more hikers partaking in our beautiful wonderland. This summer we had two hikers lose their lives on Mount Coulthard and I believe it’s just a matter of time before we have some sort of adverse animal interaction.

I have taken the bear aware course with nationally renowned bear expert John Clarke through our incredible Bear Smart organization. I carry bear spray with me whenever I’m in the back country. We had a fruit tree in our yard which we cut down several years ago to keep our yard free of attractants and we have a bear proof bin.

Despite all our precautions we still had a bear in our yard last week. He was little and he was not very fat. When I pounded some pots together, he ran away.

In the past I had a neighbour, who has now moved, feed the deer with loaves of food in the winter. We all know what bring bears around, and our neighbours were inviting them in with a smorgasbord.

Keiran is a huge fisherman and everytime he goes out I worry. Yes, he carries bear spray. Just recently he and a friend were out when the friend heard a rustle. Sixth sense told him to leave and he did. Minutes later both he and Keiran looked back to see a bear in the river in the exact same spot. I remember one fatality we had here with a fisherman in the Castle area.

Since John Clarke retired, it seems that we no longer have a champion for our bears. 

We lacked moisture this summer and with it a lack of berries. The bears are foraging for food before the winter hibernation and with attractants around we will see more and more bears. When I left my house to go to work, I drove by several homes with rotting crab apples on their trees. I honestly can’t wrap my mind around that. How many times do we need to ask people to put their garbage out only on garbage day? Bears die when we leave attractants out and it’s only a matter of time before this could be a person in the community.

Banff has a bylaw that allows the town to remove a tree without permission. Essentially the town can go on private land and remove a bear attractant tree if the homeowner refuses to repeatedly remove their apples. Is that really what we want in our community? I wouldn’t want anyone on my land without my permission, yet what avenue does the municipality have left when fining people doesn’t work. So please do your part and remove the attractants. Please be good citizens. I don’t want to have to write an article about negligence resulting in a bear or cougar being euthanized or someone’s child being killed while walking to school!

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