COCHRANE, Alta. — A woman who was having a backcountry picnic with her boyfriend was charged and bitten by a mother grizzly bear on Tuesday.
Witnesses said the pair were having lunch by the Ghost River near the Trapper's Hill campground west of Calgary when they encountered the grizzly and her cubs.
Coleman Blair said he was driving on a nearby road when he saw the couple being chased by the bear through the river.
He jumped out of his vehicle and rushed to help, saying by the time he got to her the bear had the woman's arm in its mouth. He said he was able to pry the bear's jaw open.
"She was hysterical, she was in shock,'' he said. "From that point, I looked over and saw a couple of cubs in the tree line, maybe 50 yards away, and (the mother bear) standing there, still fairly aggressive.''
"She was hysterical, she was in shock."
He said the situation could have ended far worse.
"If the bear wanted to do some damage, I mean they'd both be dead,'' said Blair, whose family runs a campground in the area.
"It was, in bear talk, more of a warning, a gentle warning ... It happens quick, that's what people need to understand. You don't have time to get your bear spray out or take your time, it happens right now, they're already on top of you, they're fast.''
The woman was taken to hospital and was in stable condition.
Bear attacks 'not that rare'
Fish and Wildlife investigators say this isn't the first time humans and bears have had run-ins.
"Bear attacks are not that rare, they typically are not fatal but we do have bluff charges in this area,'' said Ron Wiebe of Fish and Wildlife. "Probably close to half a dozen in this immediate area, we've had people bitten and people bluff charged and some people chewed on a little more seriously.''
Wiebe said being aware and prepared is the key to staying safe outdoors.
"Always carry your bear spray and be prepared for an incident and know that you are in wild country out here,'' he said. "There are grizzly bears, black bears, cougars as well as a number of other animals.''
Closed nearby road
Fish and Wildlife officers closed the nearby road and moved campers out of the affected area.
Brendan Cox of Fish and Wildlife said it was too early to say what will happen to the bear and her cubs if they are found.
Investigators need to assess the scene and speak to the people involved.
"They want to get a sense of the bear's behaviour and whether or not it was acting really aggressively or whether it was a natural reaction to an unusual situation.''
(CTV Calgary, The Canadian Press)
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