Natalie Fay, external relations manager for Parks Canada’s Banff field unit, said the agency received an alert from a GPS device originating from the Red Deer River Valley at approximately 8 p.m. on Friday, indicating a bear attack.
In a statement, Fay said a team specially trained in wildlife attacks was immediately mobilized, but weather hindered their response time.
“Weather conditions at the time did not allow for helicopter use, and the response team travelled through the night to the location by the ground,” she said.
“The response team arrived on-site at 1 a.m. and discovered two deceased individuals.”
While in the area, the response team encountered a grizzly bear displaying aggressive behaviour, Fay said, leading Parks Canada staff to euthanize it on-site for public safety.
RCMP arrived at 5 a.m. to transport the victims to Sundre, Alta., she said.
“This is a tragic incident and Parks Canada wishes to express its sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims,” the statement read.
A closure is in place around the attack area — including the Red Deer and Panther valleys, from Snow Creek Summit east to the National Park boundary, and north to Shale Pass — until further notice as a safety precaution.
Lisa Dahlseide, a conservation biologist, said, “Their attacks are extremely unusual. They do not happen very often at all.
“This time of year when they’re eating, they’re trying to fatten up.
“That food is so critical, preparing for hibernation. They might’ve felt their food source was being threatened, even if it wasn’t.”
Merle Fox, a trail guide and owner of Sunset Guiding and Outfitters, said food sources for bears are a lot less this year compared to previous years. According to Fox, bears typically rely on berries throughout the fall.
“There are no berries for them … They’re probably going for other things like deer, young elk, a lot of wild horses,” she told Global News.
“They are just trying to find whatever they can eat right now. It’s the time of the year when they fill up and they are eating whatever they can eat.
“People need to be on guard now.”
— With files from Global News.