Hiking Couple Killed By Grizzly in Banff National Park

Two hikers and their dog have been killed in a suspected grizzly bear attack in Canada’s Banff National Park. According to a post by the park, at approximately 8pm on Friday, September 29, authorities at Parks Canada Dispatch received an emergency message from the couple’s Garmin inReach indicating a bear attack. Weather prevented a response by helicopter so a Wildlife Human Attack Response Team responded on foot.

Arriving at 1am, they discovered the deceased and an aggressive grizzly bear in the area. To “ensure public safety,” the bear was euthanized on-site before efforts by the Sundre Royal Canadian Mounted Police were able to transport the victims to the town of Sundre, AB.

The hikers were found with their dog in the Red Deer River Valley area of the national park and at this time there are no further details about their trip to the area. Until further notice, an area closure has been implemented in the Red Deer and Panther Valleys.

Map of the closure area from the official closure notice.

READ NEXTA Bear Expert Explains Bear Safety Best Practices

Bear Preparedness

As the season slides closer to winter, bear activity remains frantic as these large creatures attempt to build up the reserves needed to carry them until next spring. Furthermore, this tragic encounter occurred in one of Canada’s most popular national parks, where high visitation raises the potential for human-wildlife interactions.

While grizzly encounters are rare on the popular long trails, these bears are present on most of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) as well as the entirety of Canada’s Great Divide Trail (GDT), which traverses Banff National Park during its continuation of the CDT deep into the Canadian Rockies. Earlier this year, a short section of the CDT was closed after a fatal attack near Yellowstone National Park.

Hikers traveling through bear habitat should be aware of the risks and methods for minimizing the likelihood of negative encounters. When traveling in bear country (black bears included), which covers almost the entirety of the AT, PCT, and CDT, consider taking the following precautions:

  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible and make noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
  • Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
  • Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food, and other attractants put away in a secure building. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
  • Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food-conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety.

For more on bear safety, Parks Canada has a comprehensive webpage dedicated to the subject.

Featured image via

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Comments 8

  • Jingle Bells : Oct 3rd

    Sad news. I’m doing AT section, the N half of Smokies, in a couple weeks. It will be my first time carrying spray since I picked up this interesting hobby a few years ago. I’ve read enough finally that the weight penalty is worth it, even for black bears.

    • Hot Wing : Oct 6th

      You’ll be fine…water sources may be more of a worry. It’s been dry in the NC mtns since mid summer. Happy trails!

  • Steven : Oct 4th

    I don’t know anything about bears, or dogs. Just out of interest: could having a dog anything to do with it? Like, make the bear upset? Interested? The smell?

  • thetentman : Oct 4th

    How sad.
    I am very glad there are no bears near my couch.

    There are Black Bears in my neighborhood. I am very glad that they are not Grizzly bears.

  • Hot Wing : Oct 6th

    The rest of the story per updated info on Reddit:

    The female bear was 25+ years in age, with poor teeth, and under weight nearing hibernation season. The berry crop this season was poor as well. You can add all these up to see why it happened. Looks like the couple discharged 1 can of bear spray (2 were found, 1 empty). Just a bad situation. Sometimes sh*t happens.

  • nope : Oct 6th

    Keep in mind that bear spray isn’t recommended or even allowed in some bear territory. It’s not needed in the Sierra and is banned in Sierra national parks (Yosemite, SEKI).

  • Bart : Oct 6th

    It looks like they were in their tent when the bear came knocking.
    The rangers said their food bag was hung perfectly.
    Their dog was probably in their tent, at the time of the attack. So I don’t think their dog had antagonized the bear first.
    It’s just MORE dangerous hiking in grizzly territory in the Fall.
    Sometimes you can do everything perfectly and STILL have a bad outcome.
    As they say, “Some times you eat the bear…and sometimes the bear eats you…”
    And lastly my thought is always, “Anytime you step foot on the trail or in the ocean…you become a part of the food chain.”
    It’s just a risk you have to accept.

    • Turtle Man : Oct 6th

      These comments appear to be speculative. An NPR story says the bodies were found outside their tent, “close by each other not far from the tent in their stocking feet,” unusual because conditions were wet. And, “Their boots and booties were in the tent, which suggests that something happened that one or both of them exited the tent…”

      Other stories made it a point to note that bears are generally hungry this time of year, and more so in that area since some of their usual food sources were in short supply this year. Yet, it doesn’t appear—and no stories i found had indicated—that the couple or their food (which was properly hung) were eaten.

      It seems investigators have not yet formulated an explanation for the attack.


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