Couple Killed by Grizzly Bear in Banff National Park

Couple Killed by Grizzly Bear in Banff National Park
A grizzly bear and a cub along the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., on April 29, 2019. (Frank van Manen/The United States Geological Survey via AP)

A couple and their dog have been killed in a rare grizzly bear attack in Banff National Park.

Parks Canada said in a statement they had received an alert from a GPS device on Sept. 29 indicating that a bear attack had occurred, but inclement weather prevented a specially trained wildlife team from deploying by helicopter. The team arrived by ground five hours after receiving the alert.

"The response team arrived on-site at 1 a.m. and discovered two deceased individuals," said the statement, noting the alert location originated from within Banff National Park, in the Red Deer River Valley, west of Ya Ha Tinda Ranch.

The team encountered a bear behaving aggressively in the area and euthanized it. They transported the bodies of the couple to Sundre, Alta., four hours later.

"This is a tragic incident, and Parks Canada wishes to express its sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims," said the statement.

The identities of the deceased have not been released, but CBC spoke to a family member who said the couple were outdoors enthusiasts.

"They were long-term partners who loved the outdoors and were inseparable," the family member’s statement said.

“They lived for being in the backcountry and were two of the most cautious people I know. They knew bear protocol and followed it to a tee.”

Banff National Park is home to about 60 grizzly bears, which are considered endangered in Alberta. The park receives more than four million tourists every year.

Bear sightings are common at this time of year because they’re foraging for food ahead of winter hibernation. Bear attacks are not common in Canada, according to government data, which said there’s an average of 40 a year in the country.

Although grizzly bears are more likely to attack humans than black bears in B.C. and Alberta, elk remains the most dangerous wildlife in the latter province.

In July, a 21-year-old tree planter in B.C. was seriously injured and hospitalized after being attacked by a bear near Tumbler Ridge.

“The bear first bluff-charged and the victim retreated to a nearby roadway, where the bear attacked,” the Conservation Officer Service said in a social media post. “The bear eventually disengaged and ran off. A co-worker came to her aid and called for help.”

According to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, more than 150 bears have been euthanized this summer. In August alone, the organization received more than 6,000 calls related to bears across B.C.