Be wary in bear country

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By now, no doubt everyone in Sundre ó perhaps even the province ó has heard about the Calgary man who barely survived being mauled by a grizzly.

The 32-year-old was deep in the backcountry near the headwaters of the Panther River scouting the area alone for bighorn sheep in advance of the hunting season. On the morning of Thursday, Aug. 24, he was eating breakfast when the bear came out from the trees and attacked him.

Managing to fend off further attacks after sustaining wounds to his body, face and head, the man remarkably was able to hike some 12 kilometres back to the trailhead and got back in his vehicle, driving himself to the Mountain-Aire Lodge. From there, a private helicopter flew him to the Sundre Hospital and Care Centre before he was finally transferred to a Calgary hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Fish and Wildlife officials have since closed off the Panther River area to the public and officers were as of last week seeking to trap the bear, which reportedly attacked the man unprovoked.

Venturing out alone so far in the West Country comes with the inherent risk of potentially deadly danger. Taking wild predators out of the equation, a solo hiker or hunter could easily end up in dire straits simply by rolling an ankle or falling ill, completely isolated from any immediate help or rescue. But throw in massive, curious, hungry animals and we have a potential recipe for disaster.

That is not to say outdoor enthusiasts should never under any circumstance embark on an adventure deep in the bush by themselves, but even Fish and Wildlife officials don’t recommend it, and urge anyone who is planning such a trek to take every possible measure to stay safe in bear country.

When hunting in remote areas inhabited by bears, extra caution should be taken, said spokesperson Patrick Mears, who added, “being quiet, using animal attractants and calls, and travelling alone mean there is an elevated risk of a bear encounter.”

He further elaborated, “It is important that hunters reduce the risk of a bear encounter by following bear safety protocols. If it is not necessary to be stealthy, it is better to warn bears before you get there, rather than being quiet and startling them.”

Visit www.bearsmart.alberta.ca for more safety tips.

While we at the Round Up certainly hope a speedy recovery for the lucky Calgary man who will have quite the tale to tell, we also hope such incidents will remind others to be wary in bear country, especially when going out alone.

After all, it is the bears’ turf, and the predators are already preparing for winter.

ó Ducatel is the Round Up’s editor

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The Sundre Round Up has been the source for news and community information in Sundre and area since 1960.