Banff National Park is home to an estimated 65 grizzly bears. NPS / Ken Conger
A grizzly bear attacked and killed two hikers and their dog inside Banff National Park on Friday night, according to Parks Canada. Authorities euthanized the bear, which was still in the area and acting aggressively when they arrived.
Parks Canada officials were first notified of the bear attack around 8 p.m. on Sept. 29 when they received an emergency alert from a Garmin inReach device, according to Parks Canada external relations manager Natalie Fay. The GPS alert came from a remote area in the Red Deer River Valley, and a team of first responders mobilized immediately. Weather conditions prevented them from flying in a helicopter, Fay explained in a statement, so the response team traveled there on foot and arrived to the scene of the attack at around 1 a.m.
First responders found two deceased individuals and their deceased dog. They also encountered a grizzly bear that was displaying aggressive behavior. They euthanized the bear on site.
Officials with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived later that morning and transported the bodies of the victims to Sundre, Alberta, at 5 a.m. The victims’ identities have not been released, but one of their family members told CBC News that the hikers were common-law partners with plenty of wilderness experience.
“They lived for being in the backcountry and were two of the most cautious people I know,” the family member said. “They knew bear protocol and followed it to a tee.”
That same family member explained that the two hikers had sent them an inReach message at 5 p.m. on Friday letting them know that they had made camp for the night. This means the victims weren’t traveling in the woods after dark or setting up camp when the grizzly bear attacked them.
Alberta-based human wildlife conflict specialist Kim Titchener told reporters she found it “highly unusual” that the bear was still there when the response team arrived. She explained that only 14 percent of grizzly attacks prove fatal, and in most of those instances, the bear leaves the area soon after. (Friday’s incident marks the second fatal grizzly bear attack in North America this year.)
“So that of course is concerning and I’m not sure what was going on there,” Titchener said, “but of course those details will come out as they do the investigation.”
As an added precaution, Parks Canada has closed off the Red Deer and Panther Valleys to the public until further notice.
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