WATCH: A morning jog for two Alberta men changed pace quickly, when they had to escape a black bear. Francis Silvaggio reports.
EDMONTON – Two men who were running along a northern Alberta trail earlier this month received quite the scare when they were approached and followed by a black bear.
In a video posted by Bruce Allan on YouTube, a black bear can be seen following the men, who were jogging along the Matcheetawin Discovery Trails near Fort McMurray on June 5.
“Not good. Not good,” you can hear one man say as the bear begins to follow them. “No way, man. We’re not doing this.”
From time to time the video shows the bear picking up speed. While at times the bear appears to be fairly close to the men, the animal never tries to attack them.
The men can also be heard talking about finding rocks to possibly hit the bear with if necessary.
“Get ready to hit him in the head. We’re going to have to knock him out,” says one man.
Around the four-minute mark of the video, while the bear attempts to climb a small tree, the men appear to get a bit of distance and run to safety.
(WARNING: The video below contains language that some people may find offensive)
“It was a terrifying experience for three or four minutes because you just don’t know what the bear is going to do,” Bruce Allan told Global News on Monday.
Allan and his colleague Greg Armour – who both work for Syncrude – were running a familiar trail, located about five kilometres from their work site and about 27 kilometres from Fort McMurray.
“We’ve run those trails about 20 times prior to this unexpected encounter with the bear,” said Allan. “It’s just gorgeous, but that particular moment, we were already four kilometres into the run and came across this bear unexpectedly.
“We were hiking around a corner in the trail system, and there he was.
“I did exactly what you’re supposed to do: I turned around slowly, made no eye contact, and walked away, but it pursued, it decided to be curious.”
Allan said the bear followed them for close to 20 minutes and he recorded the last few minutes of the encounter, when the situation changed slightly.
“It took us up to a point in the trail where it actually comes to a hairpin turn and it cut across the trees and actually pinned us against the tree line. At that point, I thought things were getting a little more serious.
“When it caught us in that tight corner, we were aggressive,” said Allan. “We were yelling at it, we were telling it to leave us alone… we were trying to make ourselves appear large.”
Allan says the whole encounter was terrifying and beautiful at the same time.
“When it climbs the tree – the claws in the bark – it’s just overwhelming. It’s power. That’s what made me nervous… I know he was curious, but inside your head, knowing that he could pounce on you.
“That was worth it right there, just to see the power, the muscles on this bear when it jumped and ran, it was just gorgeous.
Armour is just grateful they made it out safely.
“Running wasn’t going to work, we were going to have to stop and basically face it and keep the aggression level going,” he said, “tried to make as much distance as we could.
“If the bear did attack us, it was going to be pretty serious for us.”
The bear sighting comes just over a month after a Suncor employee was killed by a black bear in the Fort McMurray area.
“We’re very fortunate,” said Armour.
He believes the bear was staking its territory.
“I think first of all, he wanted to assert dominance over the terrain.”
Mike Ewald, a regional problem wildlife specialist with Alberta Fish and Wildlife, has seen the video and believes the young bear was curious.
“It’s a young bear. Those large, Mickey Mouse ears off the top of the head indicate an immature bear, so he’d be like… first year away from mom, so basically a teenager without any supervision.
“His persistence makes me think that this bear has been fed by people in the recent past because he certainly appeared to be expecting something from the joggers.”
Ewald says the young bear did not exhibit any signs of aggressive behaviour.
“Zero. Not at all,” he said. “Being wildlife, they can change – unpredictable really – but nothing in his behaviour at all showed any aggression.”
He adds the fact that the bear backed off when the men raised their voices when it got too close shows he wasn’t on the attack.
“He definitely wasn’t convinced that he was above them in the hierarchy of things.”
“With his ears up, with his hair normal – the hair’s not standing up – he wasn’t coming in focused, with his head down and eyes locked on them.”
Ewald says, generally, the two men handled the situation well.
“They stayed together… they didn’t feed the bear… they talked with each other and they talked to the bear, which is good… they prepared to get physical with the bear… and they didn’t run until the bear was gone.”
However, he says they should have had bear spray on them.
“I understand that these two individuals have purchased bear spray… since,” says Ewald.
The call about the bear encounter came to Fish and Wildlife around 3 p.m. on the afternoon of June 5, and was reported as just a bear sighting. If Fish and Wildlife had been given the details of this particular situation, Ewald believes the bear would have likely been relocated to a less populated area. Given that it was only reported as a sighting, no action was taken against the bear.