Grizzly bear kills couple at Canada’s Banff National Park

A couple was attacked and killed by an “aggressive” grizzly bear at Banff National Park in Canada, officials said Sunday.

Officials were alerted about a bear attack in the Red Deer River Valley at the Alberta park at 8 p.m. on Friday, through a satellite device.

Since conditions did not allow a response team to reach the search area by helicopter, they traveled on foot through the night looking for the couple.

Officials reached the campsite more than 24 hours later, where they found two bodies.

The Wildlife Human Attack Response Team, whose members are specially trained to respond to animal attacks, said it found a grizzly bear in the area that was displaying “aggressive behavior.”

The team opted to euthanize the bear on the spot “to ensure public safety,” Banff National Park said in a statement on Facebook.

The deceased couple was found at 1 a.m. Sunday. Four hours later, local police arrived and transported the victims to Sundre, a town in central Alberta.

The victims have not yet been identified, but a family member told CBC News that they were common-law partners and experienced backcountry hikers.

The family member said that the couple’s dog was also killed.

“They were long-term partners who loved the outdoors and were inseparable,” the family member said in a statement to CBC. “They lived for being in the backcountry and were two of the most cautious people I know. They knew bear protocol and followed it to a T.”

Parks Canada did not immediately reply to The Washington Post’s questions about the couple’s identity Monday morning.

This was at least the second fatal grizzly attack in North America since July, when a grizzly bear mauled a woman on a forest trail west of Yellowstone National Park in the United States. That bear was later euthanized after it broke into a person’s home in search of food, The Post reported in September.

The Canadian Rocky and Columbia Mountains are home to both grizzly and black bears, according to Parks Canada.

Bear sightings become more common in fall when the animals actively begin searching for food as they prepare to hibernate through the cold winter months.

The Parks website says that the safest approach is to avoid an encounter with a bear, but if that is not possible, using bear spray or playing dead should be the first options. If those don’t work, hikers may have to fight back.

Fourteen percent of grizzly bear attacks lead to fatalities around the world, Kim Titchener, the founder of Bear Safety and More and also a family friend of at least one of the victims, told Reuters.

Violent encounters between grizzlies and humans are increasing as more people enjoy the outdoors, but are still very rare, she said.

“It’s really just the reason why we’re seeing more attacks, which is more people heading outdoors and unfortunately not being educated on this,” she said.

Banff National Park is home to roughly 65 grizzly bears, according to Parks Canada, and they are considered to be a threatened species.

Across the wider region in western Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories and British Columbia, there are as many as 20,000 grizzly bears.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada lists grizzly bears as a “Special Concern” species because they are particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events.

They are being extinguished because of human intolerance, market hunting, rapid conversion of habitat to agriculture, and loss of their key prey, buffalo, Parks Canada said.

Officials indefinitely shut down the area of the park where the attack took place. Visitors could be fined up to $25,000 if spotted in off-limits areas.

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