A couple was found dead in an apparent attack by an “aggressive” grizzly bear in Canada’s Banff National Park, officials said Sunday.
Park officials first received a report of a bear attack on Friday night and spent several hours traveling by ground to the park’s Red Deer River Valley, where they found the couple’s bodies and a nearby bear early Saturday morning.
“The response team arrived on-site at 1 a.m. and discovered two deceased individuals,” Banff National park said in a statement on its Facebook page. “While in the area, the response team encountered a grizzly bear that displayed aggressive behaviour, leading Parks Canada staff to euthanize the bear on-site to ensure public safety.”
The bodies have been transported about 50 miles away to Sundre, Alberta.
The surrounding area has been closed to visitors until further notice.
While the names of the couple have not yet been released, one of their family members shared details about them and their extensive wildlife experience with CBC News.
Attacks by grizzly bears are rare, but there are several things visitors can do to avoid them, Banff National Park says.
“They were long-term partners who loved the outdoors and were inseparable,” the family member said.
“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 tee,” the relative continued.
The family member also confirmed that the couple’s dog was found dead with them.
Attacks by bears of any kind are relatively uncommon. There have only been a handful of documented attacks this year, including one instance of a grizzly bear, a subspecies of the brown bear, killing a hiker in West Yellowstone, Montana, in July. That bear was later euthanized when it broke into a home with its cub in September.
Banff National Park, home to roughly 60 grizzly bears and 20-40 black bears, tells visitors that its most important safety guidance is to follow protocol for avoiding bear encounters in the first place. That includes making noise when walking through dense vegetations and areas with low visibility, traveling in large groups, staying on marked paths, looking out for bear tracks and droppings, keeping dogs on leash, leaving areas with large dead animals, properly disposing of fish offal and carrying bear spray.
If visitors do come across a bear, park officials urge them to stay calm, speak firmly to the bear, back away slowly and make themselves appear as big as possible. In the case of direct contact with a bear, visitors are encouraged to “play dead” at first and fight back if the attack continues.