May 12, 2017 7:12 pm
Updated: May 12, 2017 7:20 pm

Coach describes ‘moment of panic’ as grizzly bear joins Banff high school rugby practice

WATCH ABOVE: An unexpected spectator appeared at a rugby practice in Banff. About 80 people were on the field when a bear was spotted taking a stroll.

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Rugby coach Lee Garrett said he was heading to his car after practice at the Banff Recreation Grounds Tuesday night, when a driver opened her car window and yelled: “There’s a bear heading straight towards you!”

“I’m thinking it’s maybe 100 metres down the road, so I was trying to look for it,” Garrett told Global News on Friday. “And then out from behind this tree about 30 metres in front of me pops the bear. And she kind of sees me and picks up a little bit of a jog — not in any kind of aggressive way — I think more kind of curious, but she was heading straight for me.

“So I had that moment of panic when I stopped and thought, ‘Oh, no. What’s going to happen here?'”

The grizzly was close enough for Lee to capture this photo.

Lee Garrett

Garrett said he went to his car and called out to the rest of his group — about 80 people — to let them know there was a bear on the pitch.

He said there was a “bit of panic” as the group moved away and the bear sniffed out the rugby equipment before heading back into the nearby woods.

The grizzly is known as Bear 148 by Parks Canada.

Lee Garrett

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“I guess the one thing that surprised me [was] you hear about bears getting into rubbish and food–the bear didn’t seem like that. There was a lot of backpacks and stuff left by the kids because they kind of tried to get in a group in a hurry and away from the area and they left all their stuff behind. And some of the kids said they had food in their bag. And [the bear] went over to the bags, gave them a sniff, but didn’t really care for them at all.”

Parks Canada identified the grizzly as Bear 148, a six-and-a-half-year-old female that chased a hiker and her dogs along Spray River Loop on April 15 and then three hikers on the Cascade Trail near Mount Norquay over the past weekend.

Bear 148 is seen at the Banff Recreation Grounds on May 9, 2017.

Lee Garrett

READ MORE: ‘It’s an experience you hope nobody has’: Grizzly encounter in Banff prompts bear warning

Banff National Park resource conservation manager Bill Hunt said the bear has never been a problem in the past.

“She’s lived in the Bow Valley for many years — has had a lot of encounters with people over the years,” he told Global News in an earlier interview. “She’s fairly communicative with people, so if you come upon her she’ll snort and huff and paw at the air and give you an indication that she wants you to back off.

“But in all that time we’ve never had any really negative encounters…but she does let you know that you’re in her space.”

Watch below: A group of hikers sought refuge in a Parks Canada truck after Bear 148 chased them in Banff National Park.

Hunt expects Bear 148 will continue to move in and around the Bow Valley.

He said people who venture into bear country need to know the animals are out and about.

Hunt recommends people carry bear spray, travel in groups of four or more, and make noise while hiking or biking to avoid any surprise encounters.

Bear 148 is seen interrupting a high school rugby practice May 9, 2017.

Lee Garrett

— With files from Global’s David Boushy

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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