A woman from Calgary was hiking near French Creek in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park this past weekend with her son when a bear that was protecting a carcass attacked them.
The man suffered injuries to his face, arms and head and the woman’s hand was bit while trying to use the bear spray. When the bear bit the canister of spray, it deployed into its face and scared it off.
“They surprised a bear at close range, about three metres, near a moose carcass, resulting in a defensive attack,” Arian Spiteri, district conservation officer for Kananaskis Country, said to the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
“The attack occurred in an area of thick vegetation and the two suffered non-life threatening injuries… They did get medical attention, but they were incredibly lucky.” The injuries were not life threatening and the two walked back to their car and drove to the hospital in Canmore.
“In this instance, who knows what the outcome would have been if there wasn’t bear spray?” said Nick de Ruyter, program director for Bow Valley WildSmart, to Rocky Mountain Outlook.
“The fact that the bear spray was there and it worked deterred the bear. The bear went away and they were able to get to safety.” The attack led to an immediate evacuation of the area with 11 hikers taken out by helicopter.
The southern portion of Spray Valley in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park between Mount Shark Road and Black Prince is closed until further notice. The area includes French Creek, Hogarth Lake, Burstall Pass, Chester Lake, Sawmill Trail network and the High Rockies Trail from Rummel Lake south to Black Prince.
Parks Canada recommends to always carry bear spray: Carry bear spray with you at all times on the trail, and know how to use it. Bear spray can be effective with some bears when used properly.
Be aware that wind, spray distance, rain, freezing temperatures and product shelf life can all influence its effectiveness. Familiarize yourself with the proper use of bear spray (including the manufacturer’s specific instructions) and keep it readily accessible.