An Alberta man had to be airlifted to safety on Saturday after injuring himself while scrambling up a mountain following a close encounter with a couple of grizzly bears.
Eric Macapus was hiking alone on Mount Crandell in Waterton Lakes National Park when the encounter occurred.
Macapus, an avid hiker, said he was about seven kilometres into his trek when he came across the mother grizzly and her cub.
“I was on my way, (and) had been seeing lots of wildlife already, like the mountain goats, this and that. That trail, even in the highest point, there’s still mountain goats,” Macapus said. “I have an instinct already that I will see other wildlife other than that, because I said, ‘I think I’m in their area.’”
“Then I hear a growl behind me. … And then when I turned my head back, I saw grizzly bears — like a huge mama and a cub. like they’re 12 metres away.”
“I was shocked,” he said. “I get my phone right away, remove my gloves and then dial 911.
“The moment I saw them, I said, ‘I’m going to die. I’m going to die. I will die.’”
Macapus said he started shouting at the bears while he was on the phone with 911 in an attempt to get them to stop approaching him, but they continued toward him.
“I think the cub was really curious,” he said. “Like, he was playing — like running towards me and stopping, and then coming back to his mom and then come back to me again.
“Every time I turned back, they stopped, but every time I walk, they kept walking towards me.”
Macapus said he thought to himself, “I might be rescued here (but I will be) without my hand. I was panicked.”
Macapus said he managed to scramble to the highest point of Mount Crandell, but twisted his ankle in the process.
At that time, he watched the bears from some 20 metres away as he continued talking to 911 operators.
“They said that I had to wait for three hours, four hours for the rescue. I said, ‘No problem. I will wait because I can’t walk because I twisted my ankle.’
“So I just stayed, like in the full sun, maybe like four hours.’”
Macapus said the bears eventually left and he was airlifted to safety.
“The lesson I’ve learned is don’t go hiking by yourself in the backcountry. If you go hike by yourself, be sure that you are more experienced and more aware with how to deal with the wildlife.”
Macapus said he also learned bear spray should be kept somewhere on your body that is easily accessible instead of in your bag, which is where he had put his.
“I want to share this story for other hikers,” he said.
“Do not go hiking alone in bear country.”
Macapus said though he’s been hiking for almost a decade, Saturday was the closest encounter he had with a bear.
He said the experience was scary but won’t stop him from continuing to hike in the Rocky Mountains.