We wanted to share a little grizzly bear encounter in Alberta we had (well not so little haha) but it was an exciting one. As we were driving towards Banff and Lake Louise from Revelstoke, Jo and I were talking about how we’ve never seen a grizzly before. About 5 minutes after that we end up seeing a BEAR. It wasn’t a grizzly bear, it was a cute black bear on the side of the highway (thanks to Jo’s magnificent eyes, she can seriously spot anything. It’s actually quite a talent.)
So as we were heading to Lake Louise. To hike the trail we were talking about recreating the exact photo of Jo that we’d taken a few years back. Lake Louise was actually one of the first places I ever took Jo when she first came to visit.
From there we got talking about how shocking it was that during our whole time in Revelstoke we didn’t see a single bear. Especially after all the hikes in Revelstoke that we did. We have seen black bears before but out of all the hikes we’ve ever done we had never seen a grizzly. Not even on the “Grizzly Peak” trail, haha.
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Encounter with grizzly mom and her cub
So as we approached Lake Louise. Jo got our camera and lenses ready to get some cool shots of the lake and mountains that surround it. It was the perfect summer day to enjoy a little stroll around the lake. So we went on the Lake Louise Trail, took some great pictures, and right before we started to walk back we waited a few minutes to ask someone to take our picture (we don’t enjoy doing this haha so we usually bring a tripod but we forgot it).
Anyways it took about 5 minutes to gain the courage to ask someone. Those 5 minutes are vital in this story. So we ended up getting our photo taken and then we slowly started to walk back towards the parking lot.
Then BAMMM out of nowhere we heard a few tourists/hikers yelling a few meters behind us. We looked back and people were running. Then we looking up the hill to the right of us and right there you could see a grizzly mom and her cub running from the forest towards us (exaggerating a bit, but wow). They probably saw a little rodent running in the grass and ran after it. But at one point they were about 15 meters from us until Parks Services came to make sure nothing happened.
Everything just happened so fast and we definitely got a big rush from it. Even for Canada, it was so unexpected for us to see a bear amongst all the people. One moment we were just walking on the trail and the next we saw this massive animal running towards us. Fortunately, we were in a touristy spot. Wishing a few minutes two park rangers came to prevent the bear from coming any closer.
Next up, when we realized we were safe, Dom hurried to grab our Zoom lens from the backpack and Jo started shooting the mom and her cub. We ended up getting a few decent pictures but they’re pretty affected by the adrenaline that was running through our bodies, ha!
It was definitely a moment we’ll never forget. We’d recommend using this site to see if there are any bears before you hike near Banff or wherever you are in the province. It always works out that when you’re least expecting one or the least prepared that they show up. We definitely don’t take hiking for granted and make sure we always come prepared because you just never know.
A fun fact is that only 3 times in our lives, out of all the hikes we have ever done, only 3 times we didn’t bring bear spray. And all 3 times we met bears! How crazy is that!?
The Difference between a black bear and a grizzly
There are multiple ways to tell the difference between black bears and grizzlies. The main one that’s easiest to spot from a distance is if there is a hump on the back of the bear’s neck. Grizzlies usually always have a hump on the back of their necks. This makes them distinguishable from black bears.
We’re not experts in this field but the hump is one of the easy characteristics to spot and there are tons more which you can read about more here from a reputable site about bears.
Photo by Richard Lee
Photo by Pete Nuij
What to do if you see a bear
For hikers and outdoorsmen and women it’s something we should all know and hopefully never have to use… but we should always be prepared to have a bear encounter while hiking. Especially in meadows where there’s no cell reception and people to come to the rescue, it’s super important to know how to act if you ever encounter a bear.
There are a few tips and things you should remember if you ever see a bear in the wild.
- Bring bear spray wherever you go. It’s your last line of defence and even though you hopefully never have to use it, it may just be the thing that saves your life. (make sure the safety is off and it’s pointed at the bear)
- Stay calm and slowly back away from where you saw the bear. Keep an eye on the bear but continue to walk backwards away from its territory.
- Start looking for a safe place to go. Try and get to another group of hikers. The bigger the group the better.
- Here is a great post from Parks Canada on everything you need to know about bear encounters, attacks, and anything else related to what to do when you see a bear.
- Know that black bears and grizzly bears act differently so it’s important to identify what type of bear you’re seeing and then know how to act accordingly!!
I think one thing we can take from this experience is that you always want to be aware of your environment and come prepared. That way you’re always in control of the outcome.
In the past, we wouldn’t have known how to act or what to do. I feel like now after having this minor encounter and researching online from reputable websites that we actually feel more ready if a bear is ever sharing a hike with us.
It’s something that doesn’t happen often but at the end of the day the more we hike the more we invade these animals habitats and homes and the bigger the chance is that we encounter wildlife. So the best we can do is be prepared. Try our best to avoid altercations with these animals and go peacefully about our days!
That way we can all stay safe and enjoy the beautiful mountains! At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Enjoying every breath of fresh air.
Know any good resources? Please share them with us in the comments below so you can help us and our readers get even more knowledgeable about wildlife encounters! Or any crazy wildlife encounters you may have had in the past. We’d love to hear a good story. =)