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Grizzly and Black Bear in Waterton
Parks Canada | The Rockies.Life Staff

A Bear Attack Interrupts Scrambling Session at Waterton Lakes

The bear charged at the visitors, leaving them with non-life-threatening injuries before retreating after being sprayed with bear spray.

Two park visitors in Waterton Lakes National Park were almost scrambled by a bear while scrambling in the park on Tuesday. 

In case you didn’t know, scrambling is a mountaineering term for climbing steep terrain using your hands. 

Think of it as a mix of hiking and rock climbing. 

Around 2 PM, the pair were scrambling up Ruby Ridge from Crandell Lake when they encountered a bear. 

The bear charged the visitors, injuring both. Bear spray was used, and the bear retreated, but the pair sustained non-life-threatening bite marks. 

The visitors’ quick thinking demonstrates the importance of carrying bear spray and, more importantly, knowing how to use it. 

They were able to hike out of the area and were taken to the hospital by ambulance in stable condition. Parks Canada issued an alert on Tuesday to notify people of the following area closures:

  • Mount Crandell, including Crandell Lake Trail, Crandell Lake Campground, Crandell Loop from the Townsite to the Crandell Lake Trailhead, Crandell Mountain Campground, and Canyon Church Camp
  • Ruby Ridge to the north slopes of Mount Blakiston, including Ruby Falls and Ruby Lake
  • Lineham Trail, including Lineham Cliffs and the south slopes of Mount Blakiston

The bear has not been found following the attack. 

Parks Canada is investigating the incident, but the agency doesn’t have much to work with.

“We actually, presently, don’t know the species or the sex of the bear and were hoping to find that out from some genetic analysis and hopefully from a site visit,” Rob Found, an ecologist team leader with Parks Canada, told CTV News.

Very little is known about the attack presently, and there are more questions than answers. 

Did the visitors accidentally startle the bear? Was the bear defending its territory, cubs, or food? Was the attack predatory?

The peak of Ruby Ridge in waterton Lakes National PArk
The peak of Ruby Ridge | Bob Spirko

Black Or Brown, It Doesn’t Matter 

A labelled map illustrating grizzly bear and black bear ranges in Alberta
A labelled map illustrating grizzly bear and black bear ranges in Alberta | Bear Safety & More

Waterton is about 505 square kilometres in size. A typical male grizzly’s home range is over 800 square kilometres. 

The park is not large enough to support a single grizzly’s home range, let alone an entire population. 

If a grizzly was involved in the attack, it was likely part of a larger regional population that wanders between British Columbia, Montana, and Alberta. 

There are far more black bears than grizzlies in Alberta, particularly in Waterton. 

Black bears can be found in almost 80 percent of the province and outnumber grizzlies 38,000 to 1,000.

While you are more likely to encounter a black bear in Waterton, grizzly bears are more likely to attack, especially when startled. 

Grizzly bears are about 20 times more dangerous than black bears during an attack, and the likelihood of surviving is slightly over 10 percent

About half of all grizzly-inflicted injuries are serious due to the animal’s incredible strength, biting power, and razor-sharp claws. 

Was a grizzly or black bear involved in Waterton’s latest attack? This information can’t answer that question, but it can help you make an educated guess. 

Either way, the outcome is likely the same. When a bear attacks a human, it is usually killed to prevent the same or worse from happening in the future.

Last year, a grizzly bear was killed after it attacked and killed a couple and their dog in Banff National Park. 

Killing a bear if it enters a town and attacks someone is understandable, but should a bear be killed for attacking someone in bear country? 

This is a controversial question with controversial responses. We can only wait and see what Parks Canada decides once the agency finishes its investigation.

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