Calgary·Audio

Terrifying grizzly bear attack recounted by Calgary man

James Hayworth and his wife, Laura, were enjoying a hot day by the Ghost River in the Waiparous area northwest of Calgary on Tuesday when a mother grizzly charged out of the woods and attacked.

James Hayworth and wife Laura were enjoying the sunshine when a mother bear charged out of the woods

James and Laura Hayworth were attacked by a grizzly bear, like the one pictured in this file photo, northwest of Calgary on Tuesday. (Left: James Hayworth/Facebook, Right: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

UPDATE July 20, 2016, at 1 p.m.: Laura Hayworth, who was worst hurt in the grizzly attack, was released from hospital on Wednesday, the morning after this article was published.


James Hayworth and his wife, Laura, were enjoying a hot day by the Ghost River in the Waiparous area northwest of Calgary on Tuesday when a mother grizzly charged out of the woods and attacked

The two were prepared for bears — they had a can of bear spray — but Hayworth said the bear ran at them so quickly that he didn't have time to do anything.

"I thought for sure I'm going to die. I'm dead," he said.

Somehow, he and his wife escaped with their lives. She has a broken arm and multiple puncture wounds, while he has scrapes, cuts and bruises, including a paw print on the back of his hamstring from where the bear stood on top of him.

Hayworth says he stood up when the bear released him and saw it charging after his wife. 

"She knocked my wife over and my wife put up her hands to block her face and the bear grabbed a hold of her arm," he said. "At that point I started sprinting towards the bear. The bear started running and dragging my wife."

The bear was a female grizzly with two cubs, but the cause of the attack is not known at this time. 

Below is James Hayworth's account of the attack, slightly condensed, as told to CBC News:

'She slammed me down into the water'

"We were camping in Waiparous. It was a nice day, so we hiked down to the river. When we got down to the river, we had a picnic and we were sitting on the rocks. You know, there's cars going by, very busy area close to the main road, so we didn't really think anything of attacks, or whatever. 

"As we were sitting there, we were laying on the bank, about six feet from us there was a bank and we were on the rocks and my wife said 'oh, I think there are two wolves.' So I stood up and I saw two bear cubs.

"As soon as I noticed the bear cubs, the mother grizzly bear comes bursting through the trees. She knocks me over. I stood up, I yelled at her, she kept coming. Boom! She knocked me over. I scrambled to get up quickly, I yelled to my wife 'get into the river, get into the river!' I started running towards the river, as soon as I got to the river I felt like I got hit by a truck. She slammed me down into the water and she was standing on top of me when I was in the water and I thought for sure I'm going to die, I'm dead.

James Hayworth describes what happened when he and his wife Laura were attacked by a grizzly bear near Calgary 6:57

"She got off me. I stood up and I saw her charging after my wife. She knocked my wife over and my wife put up her hands to block her face and the bear grabbed a hold of her arm. At that point I started sprinting towards the bear. The bear started running and dragging my wife. And then when I got maybe two or three feet from the bear, the bear saw me and got spooked and ran away. I picked up my wife and dragged her as fast as I could to the other side. I saw the bear and the bear cubs running into the distance.

Coleman Blair, who helped the couple after the attack, points to where the attack took place. (CBC)

'Help, help, help!'

"Then, at that point, me and my wife were trying to figure out how to get out of there so we started walking into the most clear area to get back to our vehicle. I was yelling, I was making loud noises so the bear would know where we were.

"At that point we heard another guy yelling back to us. I looked back to the top of the cliff, there was a man standing there, one with a red shirt and one with a dark-coloured shirt, and he was yelling back to us, so we said 'help, help, help!' I said 'be careful, there's a bear,' and he said 'yeah, I know there's a bear, we saw where it went.'

"So his friend stayed on the top of the cliff. Thank God those guys showed up. His friend stayed on top of the cliff, watching where the bear was, and he came down and guided us to where their vehicle was. 

"When we got to the top of the cliff, I ran, got my vehicle, jumped into my vehicle, drove it back to my wife as fast as possible, put my wife in the vehicle and then my wife and I, I just started ripping down the road to get her to the hospital.

"The ambulance showed up so we stopped. They started giving her first aid and they called the helicopter and then the helicopter took her to the hospital and I went from there. 

"It was the worst experience of my life, it was horrible."

'I'm going to get killed here'

"As soon as the bear charged towards me, the first feeling I felt was I was going to die. I knew I was going to die, because I could see that this animal was coming towards me and there was no hope of trying to stop it. It was the biggest bear I've ever seen in my life and she was really, really angry and just wanted to protect her cubs.

"I just pictured the scene from The Revenant. I was like 'I'm going to get killed here, my wife's going to get killed and we're going to be sitting here dying until somebody finds us.'

"Then when the bear slammed me down into the river, I knew at the moment, I was like 'I'm going to drown.' I thought it was going to start attacking me but it didn't."

"My wife, when she was in the hospital. She just kept telling the helicopter people and everybody, 'Go check my husband, go check my husband.' All I can say is I am extremely lucky. The bear took me down twice and I'm able to walk away and say that I'm OK.

The area where the attack occurred is closed for the time being. (CBC)

Man vs. bear

"I knew as soon as the bear took me down the first time and I felt its weight, I knew there was nothing, there was nothing you could do. Human, a human being cannot fight a bear. You cannot, there is no possible way. The sheer weight of that bear. When it stepped on top of me when I was in the river, it felt like I was getting driven on by a truck. It was so heavy.

"It's not like we weren't prepared, we had bear mace with us, but you go from sunbathing to all of a sudden a bear's coming to attack you, I don't care who you think you are, there's nobody who can react and think that quickly while grabbing bear mace, taking the safety off and spraying the bear. It is in your face, six feet away from us and it's sprinting at you, even if you reached for it, you're going down.

"People need to realize that animal has to be respected and it's not a joke.

"If it intended to kill us, it could have ripped her arm clear off her body, but I think what it was saying was, 'These are my cubs, get away,' and I think we are very lucky for that reason."