A missing hunter that was found last week in Kananaskis County, Alberta appears to be the latest victim of an uptick in bear encounters across the province. According to the CBC, the remains of veteran hunter Rick Cross were found near Picklejar Creek Trail alongside his backpack and rifle. Cross was reported missing on September 6, just one day before search teams recovered his body. Officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) confirmed that the cause of death was severe trauma inflicted by a grizzly bear, likely a sow with cubs. Due to the presence of a fresh deer carcass nearby, conservation officers say that the bear may have been more aggressive than usual.
“Surprising a mom bear with a cub is one trigger for an attack and getting too close to a food source is another, so it’s kind of a double whammy there. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” RCMP officer Virgil Bitz told the Calgary Herald.
Bitz further added that as the end of summer approaches, bears will become increasingly anxious about their food intake. The large mammals must eat enough to last through the winter, and that can mean that some bears will become more protective of food sources than they otherwise would be. Officials said they are still investigating the circumstances of the mauling—including whether any shots were fired by Cross in self-defense—but it was likely that the attack happened quickly and without warning.
“I’m sure the whole incident took place in a very short time,” district conservation officer Glenn Naylor told the CBC. “So the reaction time would have been very, very minimal.”
Officials say there are currently no plans to track down the bear who killed Cross. Due to the incident, Picklejar Creek and two adjacent areas have been closed to the public.
Kananaskis County has a healthy population of grizzly bears, but has not had a fatal encounter since 2005 when a mountain biker was ambushed and killed. This recent attack marks the latest fatality in what appears to be a rise in bear conflicts across Alberta. A 36-year-old Suncor employee was killed in May when a black bear attacked an oil sands site near fort McMurray, mauling her as six of her co-workers attempted to fend off the animal. Another hunter was also attacked by a black bear near Edmonton in August, but was able to shoot the charging animal in time to stop it in its tracks. Wildlife officials have also received reports of bear encounters by hikers and park employees. According to the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division, an estimated 40,000 black bears and 700 grizzlies reside within the province.
Image courtesy Steve Michel/Parks Canada