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Parks Canada reveals additional details about deadly bear attack in Banff

The couple and dog mauled and killed by a grizzly bear in the backcountry of Banff National Park late last week did everything right, Parks Canada says.

They had the appropriate permits.

They had bear spray.

They'd hung their food properly.

They were staying in a location where there were no active bear warnings or area closures.

"This incident is a tragedy, and our sincere condolences go out to the families of the victims," Parks Canada said in a release issued on Tuesday.

Parks Canada says it will not be releasing the victims' names.

Parks Canada received an alert indicating a bear attack from a GPS device in the Red Deer River Valley, west of Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, around 8 p.m. on Friday.

Due to poor weather conditions, a response team was forced to travel by foot to the site.

When they arrived, around 1 a.m. on Saturday, they found a husband, wife and dog had been killed.

A grizzly bear displaying aggressive behaviour was found in the area and, after it charged at the response team, was euthanized by Parks Canada for public safety reasons.

The area of the attack was closed as a precaution.

"The bear was not collared or tagged and was not previously known to Parks Canada staff," Parks Canada said on Tuesday.

"Parks Canada does not believe another bear was involved at this time. However, out of an abundance of caution an area closure has been put in place until further notice."

A necropsy on the bear Parks Canada put down revealed it to be female, possibly more than 25 years old and in fair body condition but with poor teeth and less-than-normal body fat.

“Was the bear habituated? Was it a problem bear before? Was it getting into tents before? Was it starving?” asked John Clarke, a retired Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officer.

Over his 34 years on the job, he responded to more than a dozen bear attacks. Deadly or not, he says the investigation process is thorough.

“You have to treat it like a crime scene, make sure you do all the evidence correctly,” Clarke said.

“There would be evidence collection such as hair, blood, whatever was found there … You want to make sure it’s the right bear who did it.”

Further testing will be done to confirm it is the bear responsible for the attack.

Parks Canada says it's impossible to know what exactly happened leading up to the attack and it does not care to speculate.

"The incident happened in a remote wilderness location and there were no witnesses," Parks Canada said.

Devon Earl, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, said dogs can attract bears.

“Especially if the dog is off-leash, you sometimes don’t know how your dog might react to encountering a bear, even if your dog usually isn’t aggressive,” she said.

“There’s always going to be a risk of having a negative encounter with wildlife when you’re in the wilderness.”

That’s why Clarke now teaches a bear safety course through his company Canadian Bear Safety Authority, where he even dresses as a bear to prepare students.

“I’ve turn that fear into confidence and they feel more comfortable how to deal with that bear, how to retreat when you see that threat, how do you spray, when to use it and to read that behaviour,” he said.

Parks Canada said what happened on Friday night is very rare.

"Bear attacks are rare occurrences. Fatal bear attacks are even less frequent," Parks Canada said.

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