Hiking The Alberta Rockies - My Bear Encounters
The place I've had close encounters with bear is in the Trap Creek Valley. Over the years I have seen many bears, but usually at a distance, or from a
vehicle. I have seen sign, and been close to bears other times, but not actually seen the bears, except for four instances.
In 30 + years of hunting, hiking and camping the Alberta Foothills and Mountains I had only had bears (that I saw) close four times. I had many times
heard, smelled, and found sign of bears but they always avoided me.
I was hunting moose, elk, and deer one fall several years ago. I had taken a moose on the Wednesday, and was now looking for elk or deer. As I walked
up a draw heading up the ridge, a black animal jumped up in front of me about 50 yards away. At first I thought it was a calf moose, but then realized it was
a huge black bear. He stopped broadside for a minute looking at me, and then ran to the ridge just above me. For the next 2 hours I could hear the bear
moving up the hillside parallel to me! It was an unnerving experience. After a while the sounds stopped and I didn't hear him again. A while later from a
vantage point on the ridge side I could see the bear and realized he had been following a game trail to leave the area, and then went about 2 miles away
from me.
The next time I had a close experience was with a grizzly about 4 years later. A friend and I had ridden our mountain bikes into Trap Creek to go fishing
and do some scouting. Since it was a hot summer day, and we had ridden about 4 miles into the bush, we decided to have a beer before we started fishing.
As we were sitting there Kevin said "Carl - Bear". I looked below us at the canyon bottom, and saw a grizzly run from the bush, jump to the middle of the
creek, and then to the bank on the other side. He disappeared into the trees on the other side of the creek and took off. We waited about 20 minutes
before we went down to the creek, and found where the bear had been feeding.
In the fall of 1996, I was hunting with my daughter Carrie. This fall was a warm open fall, and there was no snow yet. I believe that there were more bears
seen this year because of that, and the fact that there was no feed in the high country anymore for bears.
On the second day of elk season, a Saturday, Carrie and I were sitting on a rock bluff overlooking a small draw that the elk regularly used as a travel route.
In the early afternoon, I heard something in the bush across the draw from us. I left Carrie to watch the draw and I went up to the top to look over the
hillside across from us. About 10 minutes later I heard Carrie call me, and started back down the hill. I met her coming up to me, and she was scared. I
asked what was wrong and she said there's a bear here. I looked and a small black bear was about 100 feet away from us. It looked to be about a 2 year
old just out on its own. I said don't worry, it's a small bear and we have rifles. The bear spent 4 hours feeding and snoozing there. Later that afternoon the
bear moved off and went elsewhere.
The following Saturday I was out with my daughter and a friend of hers hunting deer in the Trap Creek Valley several miles east of the Mountains. We had
spent the day walking the trails, and since I had noticed some fresh grizzly bear tracks, I decided to go to a different area. We sat on a trail for the afternoon
where we would usually see deer. We had been there for a couple of hours when Carrie said "Oh sh*t, there's a grizzly!" We had a Grizzly come to about
30 feet from us before we noticed or heard him!!!!!! I looked up and he had his nose down grazing. We stood up and grabbed our rifles, and started to
back out of the area! The Grizzly lifted his head and looked at us with the most surprised look on his face! I'm not sure who was more surprised!!!
Fortunately the grizzly swapped ends (gave us a view of his east end rapidly moving westbound) and took off so we didn't have to shoot him! Needless to
say we decided it was time to go somewhere else. What an experience!!! It's something to see a majestic animal like a grizzly at such close range!
I know that I've been close to bears many more times but have never seen them. The biggest risk when out in the bush is leaving food around a campsite.
These experiences prove that under normal circumstances, bears want nothing but distance between them and people. The usual problems are: coming
between a bear and its cubs or food, surprising the bear at close range leaving it no reasonable escape route. People who feed bears are asking for trouble
since a bear is always looking for the easiest source of food, and doesn't realize what "no more" means.
Bears are a majestic, free, and wild animal. If they are treated with respect, caution, NOT FEEDING THEM, and given space, there are very few bear
problems. Most bear problems are caused by people feeding them, or leaving food and garbage around for the bears to find. Once a bear realizes that
people = food there is a bear problem!