Two men are in hospital after being mauled in separate grizzly bear attacks, roughly 70 kilometres apart in southern Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
At 12:47 p.m. Sunday, Kananaskis Emergency Services was notified of an attack on Storelk Mountain, south of Highwood Pass in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park.
A 38-year-old man was hiking alone when it’s believed a female grizzly, who was with two cubs, defensively attacked, a spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks said.
The man was airlifted from the backcountry to Foothills hospital in Calgary. He’d received multiple serious puncture wounds and lacerations and is in serious but stable condition.
About seven hours later, at 8 p.m., Blairmore RCMP received a call about a hunter who had been attacked by a bear.
Two hunters were searching for grouse in an area about 10 kilometres west of Highway 40, near the Alberta-British Columbia boundary and south of Gould Dome mountain, when they came across a grizzly sow and her cubs. The bear attacked one of the hunters, while the other shot the bear, scaring her off, officials said.
The injured hunter is in hospital in stable condition, according to Alberta Fish and Wildlife.
Areas closed while officials investigate
Fish and wildlife officers are searching for the bear, and the area of the attack is closed to the public. Fish and wildlife said a map outlining the boundaries of the closed area will be provided as soon as it’s available.
Parks staff are also looking for the bear involved in the earlier attack.
A closure has been issued for Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park west of Highway 40 from the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park boundary south to an unnamed ridge south of Running Rain Lake off of Mount Odlum.
A bear advisory is also in place for the Highwood area, which includes Ptarmigan Cirque, Pocaterra Ridge, Lipsett, Mist and Picklejar Creek.
The two maulings happened more than 70 kilometres apart. Experts say fatal bear attacks are rare.
“Bear activity is currently high, and encounters between bears and people may have unfortunate consequences for both the bears and people involved,” an Environment and Parks spokesperson said.
A list of bear safety tips can be found on the province’s website, and bear sightings can be reported to 403-591-7755.