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Large area of Kananaskis Country closed after bear ‘made contact with hiker’

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WATCH: A hiker and their dogs had a surprise encounter with a grizzly bear and her cubs last week, leading to the closure of a large portion of Kananaskis Country near Canmore. Adam MacVicar reports – Oct 15, 2019

A large swath of Kananaskis Coutnry — including hiking trails and day use areas — remained closed on Monday after a bear encounter that resulted in a hiker having to use their bear spray.

In a notice on the Alberta Environment and Parks website, the government said the closure spanned the area surrounding Cougar Creek from the BRUNCO pit to Harvie Heights and included the following rails:

  • Cougar Creek
  • Grotto Mountain
  • Horseshoe Loop
  • Lady MacDonald
  • Echo Canyon
  • Montane Traverse
  • Johnny’s Trail
  • Meander Trail
  • Tidbits Quarry
  • Harvie Heights Ridge Traverse
  • Mount Charles Stewart
  • Outlier

According to Alberta Environment and Parks, a grizzly bear and her cubs made contact with a hiker in the area last week, which led to the closure.

“A [person] was up hiking on the front side of Grotto Mountain… the [person] had two dogs with them, one of the dogs was off-leash, the [person] had a close encounter with a sow and and grizzly cubs. The dog that was off-leash was out in front of the [person] a little ways, the sow keyed on that dog, came back towards the [person] and that’s when the interaction occurred,” Andy Rees said.
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Rees said the hiker was nipped on their calf and eventually used their bear spray, which drove the bear away. The hiker then walked out of the trail.

READ MORE: Cougar killed after attacking 2 dogs in Ha Ling Peak, East End of Rundle area

Rees said the enforcement of a closure is meant to ensure no other people come into contact with the bear in the area and also that the bear can de-stress after the encounter.

“A lot of people think, because we had such a cold and snowy fall, that bears are basically in hibernation right now and that’s not the case. Bears are still actively out there feeding and looking for food and they’re not going to be going into hibernation for another month, month and a half,” said Rees

Officials will look at the closure at the end of the week to determine whether it can be lifted.

While the bears were seen in the area of Grotto Mountain, officials said encounters can happen anywhere in the Kananaskis region.

Alberta Parks closed an area of Kananaskis Country after a hiker came into contact with a bear. Alberta Environment and Parks

People visiting the area are advised to be bear aware and take the following steps to avoid a surprise encounter:

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  • Travel in groups and make noise
  • Look and listen for signs of bears
  • Keep pets on a leash
  • Carry bear spray, make sure it’s easily accessible and you know how to use it

More information on bears and bear safety can be found on the Government of Alberta website and at WildSmart.