LAKE LOUISE – A stressed black bear trying to avoid throngs of tourists by swimming across Lake Louise ended up attacking an international visitor, leaving the man with minor injuries.
The 24-year-old man, who was hiking on the horse trail between Mirror Lake and the stables behind Chateau Lake Louise, called Parks Canada dispatch about 4:45 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 23) to report a bear was slowly approaching him and not backing off.
“He said the bear came up to him, tried to swipe his leg, and then tried to bite him. He kicked it twice and the bear took off,” said Jon Stuart-Smith, a human-wildlife conflict specialist for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay.
“He had minor injuries to his lower leg from the bite, although it was really more of a nip. The bear clipped his pants and scraped the skin below, resulting in a scratch from the teeth; there was no puncture.”
The tourist was on the phone with a Parks Canada dispatcher throughout the 20-minute ordeal, giving a play-by-play on what was happening.
Parks staff in Lake Louise were alerted immediately and headed up the trail to meet the hiker, who was assessed on site by EMS and then left. Parks Canada had no details on where the man was from.
Almost 45 minutes before the encounter, the bear ended up on the lakeshore trail and swam across the lake, emerging close to the Lake Agnes trailhead before racing off into the forest.
“I would say that entire event was probably very stressful for the bear,” Stuart-Smith said, noting the swim was witnessed by many tourists.
“I’m assuming that it got cold and tired fairly quickly and needed to get out, and the quickest location for it to get out was unfortunately the place where there was still a lot of people.”
Parks Canada doesn’t believe the bear was harassed, but panicked visitors likely added to the bruin’s stress.
“There were a lot of people right there and not necessarily backing off as soon as we would like or as soon as would have reduced the stress level on the animal,” Stuart-Smith said.
It’s believed this is the same black bear that was feasting on buffaloberries along the Tramline trail, in an area between Moraine Lake Road and Upper Lake Louise, earlier in the day.
Parks Canada temporarily closed that area at about 9:30 a.m.
“We wanted to let the bear feed on its own and not be disturbed, but eventually the bear worked its way up to Chateau area and swam across the lake just after 4 p.m.,” Stuart-Smith said.
Following the bear attack, Parks Canada put a warning in place for the area, which includes Lake Agnes trail, Plain of Six trail, Fairview Lookout, Saddleback trail, Tramline trail and Louise Creek trail.
Parks continues to monitor the situation, but notes there have been no further incidents since Aug. 23.
“At this point, given the circumstances of the incident, we’re going to see what behaviour that bear displays in the future before taking any further action,” Stuart-Smith said.
People travelling in bear country are asked to travel in groups, make noise while hiking, keep all pets on a leash, carry bear spray and know how to use it; and, maintain a safe distance between you and any bear.
Parks Canada asks that all bear sightings be reported to Banff dispatch at 403-762-1470.