As a resource management officer for Parks Canada, Etienne Cardinal makes sure to pack a can of bear spray in his backpack whenever he enters bear territory. The park employee was glad to have it last Saturday when he was attacked by bruin.
According to QMI Agency, Cardinal was biking through a popular trail near Jasper, Alberta when he heard an abrupt roar from his right side.
“I could just see this brown thing moving around, it was too fast to actually see what was happening,” he said in an video interview.
Cardinal does not remember whether he got off the bike by himself or if the bear pushed him off. What he did remember was a desperate struggle for his life as the bear began to maul him. Cardinal said that he attempted to ward off the bear by punching it, but later fell on the ground and tried to shelter himself as best as he could.
“I fell on my knees waiting for more blows to come. But nothing came,” he told the CBC.
When he looked back, the bear was already running in the opposite direction. As it turns out, the bear did try to take a bite out of Cardinal, but instead bit through his small backpack and crushed a can of bear spray.
“The bear got the full effect of that in his face and high-tailed it down the trail,” said Jasper National Park conservation officer John Wilmhurst.
Except for a few scratches, the park employee escaped the encounter mostly unscathed.
Park officials searched the area but were unable to find the bear. The section of trail where Cardinal was attacked will be closed for a week while the search is ongoing.
In his normal duties Cardinal would be advising visitors to bring along bear spray, even if they had doubts about its effectiveness. After his recent close encounter, Cardinal is much more fervent about being prepared for bear attacks.
“It can happen,” he said. “It’s very unlikely, but it can happen.”
You can watch part of the interview here: