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Alberta bear attacks have some on high alert

Two bear attacks on humans in two days have some southern Alberta outdoor enthusiasts on high alert but confident education is the best way to stay calm and hike on.

'When there are no attacks it is probably just as dangerous because then you are complacent'

Some areas around Canmore have been closed after recent bear attacks. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Two bear attacks on humans in two days have some southern Alberta outdoor enthusiasts on high alert but they are confident that education is the best way to stay calm and hike on.

Calgary resident Ellen Pennock loves hiking in the Canmore area. She says knowing what to do when you encounter a bear reduces the stress.

"I personally am quite scared of bears but I have done a lot of bear safety education so I always make sure to take the precautions regardless of how many incidents have happened," Pennock tells CBC News.

She says vigilance includes things like hiking in groups, carrying bear spray and just being loud.

Recent bear attacks in Canmore and Waiparous have some people on high alert. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"There are bears in Kananaskis, in Banff, so whenever you go out you do need to make sure you have those precautions."

A couple was attacked by a mother grizzly bear protecting her cubs near the Ghost River in the Waiparous area on Tuesday. Laura Hayworth was sent to hospital with a broken arm and multiple puncture wounds.

The next day a cyclist near Canmore received serious, soft tissue injuries to her upper body, which led to an internal injury, when a bear attacked her in the Lowline Trail area.

Pennock says the number of incidents doesn't really matter.

"There are definitely some precautions you always take regardless, even if there have been no bear attacks, if there has been 50 bear attacks. You have to always take those precautions," Pennock said.

"It is always on my mind and it is just something you have to be educated in."

Canmore resident Scott Perras has been enjoying the area for 12 years.

He said caution, not fear, should be the goal.

Scott Perras says the two recent bear attacks should be a wake-up call for park users. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"I heard about the Waiparous incident and the incident in Canmore all at the same time," Perras said.

"That was a bit of a shock that two things happened in such a short amount of time. It was a really good reminder, maybe a dark way to put it, but to make sure we have our bear spray and that we are prepared and that we are thinking about bears when we are out there."

He's not the only one thinking about bear spray, according to the manager of a sports retailer.

"We have seen a spike in sales over the last week," Brenda Nolan of Wapiti Sports and Outfitters said.

She said that seems to be a trend.

Retailer Brenda Nolan says sales of bear spray are up over the last week, but also over a longer time period. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"But I think overall, in the last year and a half, we have actually seen an increase in the volume of sales and it is almost … people are being more aware that they should be carrying it in this kind of country. We are in bear territory here. Even around town, there is always the possibility of an animal being in the bushes close by," she said.

John Saunders — a Canmore resident of two years — says the attacks are troubling.

"All of us are concerned when we hear somebody going injured. Any kind of encounter is certainly not good for the individual but also not good for the wildlife," Saunders said.

Canmore resident John Saunders says it's safer to travel in a group. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

He says sometimes there is strength in numbers.

"You don't have to stop riding if there are bears reported in the area. Avoid those areas. Just use some common sense. Always a good idea to ride with more than one person, any time you are off the beaten path where there is not much traffic, it is prudent to go in pairs or better," he said.

Hiker Marc Whitburn says sometimes no news can be bad news.

"When there are no attacks it is probably just as dangerous because then you are complacent and you could just stumble across one at any minute," Whitburn said.

"I think it adds a little bit more mindfulness to just be aware that there are bears out here. I think we come out here so often we forget that we are in the wilderness and it could happen at any time."

An ecologist says more berries equal more bears. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Arlene Klassen says minor route variations are sometimes all that is needed to stay safe.

"I am not going into the woods quite as much as I would. I like to go off the main path but I am not doing that. Otherwise I wouldn't say it is really affecting my hiking," Klassen explained.

"I am looking out for them and I have got my bear spray with me and I am trying to be where people are, but it's not always possible."

Provincial Park ecologist John Paczkowski says berries bring bears.

Ecologist John Paczkowski says there's a lot more berries this year and they attract bears. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

"Right now we are seeing an unprecedented number of berries near trails because that it where they grow best so if you are going to go biking, maybe consider taking the road bike out, leave the mountain bike at home for the next couple of weeks," Paczkowski said.

"If you must go out, have a bear spray in hand and know how to use it. It can be lifesaving. It has been proven hundreds and hundreds of times."

With files from CBC's Dave Gilson

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