June 5, 2018 6:32 pm
Updated: June 6, 2018 12:58 pm

Grizzly swipes, bites at hiker on Lake Minnewanka Trail in Banff

WATCH: A hiker is lucky to be alive after a close encounter with a grizzly bear and her cubs in Banff National Park. Lisa MacGregor reports.

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A hiker travelling along the Lake Minnewanka Trail on the weekend was charged by a female grizzly bear who swiped and bit at him, injuring his hand, Parks Canada said Tuesday.

A lone hiker was on the Lake Minnewanka shoreline trail, about one kilometre inside the Banff National Park boundary, at about 11 a.m. Sunday when a grizzly cub ran across the trail about 15 feet in front of him.

READ MORE: Grizzly bear activity prompts warning, closure in Kananaskis Country

The cub’s mother followed immediately after charged at the man and he discharged his bear spray, which officials said he had ready.

“The bear then approached a little closer, swatted a bit at his hand and he covered up,” resource conservation manager Bill Hunt said. “The bear took a few scratches to his pack and then kind of assessed the situation, it appears, and then completely disengaged and took off with the cub.”

WATCH BELOW: A frightening bear attack in Banff National Park over the weekend prompted a warning and trail closure. Blake Lough reports on the close encounter.

Hunt said the female bear also bit at the hiker’s hand and the bear spray canister, breaking the plastic cap. The man received a small puncture wound between his thumb and finger.

The man hiked out to the trailhead and called to report the incident at about 1:15 p.m.

Parks Canada officials went in to investigate and eventually closed a portion of the backcountry in that area. The affected areas include:

  • Lake Minnewanka Trail from Stewart Canyon to the Lake Minnewanka patrol cabin
  • Campgrounds LM8, LM9 and LM 11

Hunt said some people were evacuated from the affected campgrounds.

A bear warning was put in place for a portion of the Lake Minnewanka trail after a female grizzly bear charged a hiker.

Parks Canada

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He said this isn’t uncommon behaviour for a female bear with a cub that’s caught in a surprise encounter, adding that despite the bear being close enough to swipe and bite, the bear spray likely stopped the attack.

“It was really fortunate that he was hiking with his bear spray readily available. We see a lot of people that will have bear spray tucked in the back of their pack or down inside their pack… and certainly it’s not going to do you any good in those locations,” Hunt said.

READ MORE: Encounters between grizzly bears, humans rising in southern Alberta: study

Bear spray is highly effective against bear attacks, Hunt said, adding that it can take a few moments to take effect.

Parks Canada officials recommend hikers travel in groups of four for safety reasons, but if that’s not possible, Hunt said hikers should make a lot of noise on trails to deter bears from approaching, like shouting or whistling every few minutes. He added bear bells aren’t recommended, as their sound doesn’t travel very far.

Parks Canada also has the following tips for people travelling in all parts of bear country:

  • Paying attention for bears when travelling in this area
  • Making noise when hiking and cycling
  • Keeping all pets on leash and a close eye on children
  • Carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it
  • Store all food, cookware, utensils, coolers, etc. properly by hanging it from the food hanging poles and cables provided in the campgrounds
  • Keep a clean campsite. All litter and garbage must be packed out
  • Reporting all bear sightings immediately to the Visitor Centre or Banff Dispatch at 403-762-1470

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