A Parks Canada wildlife conflict specialist, who survived being attacked by a grizzly bear while riding his bike near Jasper, Alta., on the weekend, says he screamed at the animal after it knocked him off his bike and tried to bite him.
Etienne Cardinal, who started his seasonal work with Parks Canada in May, was cycling by himself Saturday on a popular trail between Cottonwood Slough and Patricia Lake when he came upon the bear.
“I was 10 minutes from being back from town, and that’s when I had this little adventure,” he said.
“I heard the bear first. He turned on me, just roaring at me ... it was pretty quick, I didn’t really see it coming.”
The bear hit Cardinal on the side of his back with its paw and knocked him off of his bike. Then it tried to bite him. Instead, the grizzly bit into his backpack and set off the bear spray Cardinal had strapped to its side.
“He had a mouthful of it, which is good,” Cardinal said.
“I wasn’t realizing what was going on. I was screaming at it just so that it would stop.
“I fell on my knees waiting for more blows to come. But nothing came.”
The bear took off. Cardinal said the attack lasted about 10 seconds.
He then used a cellphone to call for help and was taken to hospital with minor injuries and was soon released.
He has a few scratches on his back, but otherwise he’s fine.
Crews are still searching for the bear. Parks Canada staff say the grizzly was acting defensively and that this was not a predatory attack. They say Cardinal did everything right and took all the necessary precautions – he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The attack happened about half a kilometre from a set of cabins. Trails in the area have been closed as a precaution.
Parks Canada officials are warning that there may be a higher risk of encountering bears in mountain parks this year. A colder than usual spring means the snow has taken longer to melt in the mountains, forcing bears to lower altitudes to find food.
Having survived a grizzly attack, Cardinal warns anyone else who uses mountain trails to take precautions.
“It can happen. It’s very unlikely, but it can happen.”