2 hikers injured in Kananaskis bear attack

Two hikers were injured this weekend in Kananaskis Country after surprising a bear dining on a carcass in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Calgary woman and son were hiking in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park when they crossed paths with bear

Conservation officers say it is unknown whether it was a black bear or a grizzly that attacked a mother and son hiking in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Saturday. In this file photo, a female grizzly is pictured in the Powell River area of B.C. (Geoff Allan/B.C. Conservation Service/Facebook)

Two hikers were injured this weekend in Kananaskis Country after surprising a bear that was dining on a moose carcass in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

"This was a classic defensive attack and it could have been so much worse," said Alberta Parks conservation officer Nick Dykshoorn. "The injuries were serious but certainly not life-threatening in any way."

Dykshoorn said the hikers — identified only as a Calgary woman and her adult son — were hiking on a lesser-used trail near the Burstall Pass day-use area on Saturday afternoon when the bear came out of the bush just three metres from the pair.

The bear knocked the man to the ground and started heading toward the woman, who was pulling out her bear spray, but dropped it.

"When she picked it up to spray the bear, the bear bit at her hand and actually bit into the canister deploying the spray into the bear's face," Dykshoorn said.

The man suffered wounds to his head, face and arms, while the woman suffered puncture wounds to her hand and some minor scratches. The two were able to get themselves out of the park.

"They are in surprisingly good spirits in the hospital," Dykshoorn said. "They will be telling that one for a while."

Large portion of park closed

Parks staff closed a large section of the Central Spray Valley after the attack. Dykshoorn said the reason is to give the bear, which is likely under a great deal of stress after the encounter, time to recover.

"It did get a full deployment in the face of bear spray, which could have effects for some time and could add stress to that bear," he said.

The closure affects French Creek, Burstall Pass and the Sawmill trail system south to Black Prince and the surrounding area.

The closure will remain in effect until parks staff deem the risk to be "minimal to none" after the incident.

Conservation officers collected DNA to try to determine whether it was a black bear or a grizzly that attacked the hikers, although Dykshoorn suspects the animal was a grizzly.

The hikers were doing everything right, Dykshoorn said, by carrying bear spray, walking in a group and making noise. Although, they weren't making much noise right before the encounter.

"One thing we're trying to stress to people to is each person carries a can of bear spray in the event one person actually gets knocked down who has the bear spray," he said. "Your odds are much better if everyone is carrying it."

Conservation staff aren't taking any action against the bear, aside from giving it some space. Conservation officers are asking, however, that every large carnivore sighting be reported to parks staff.

A large portion of the French Creek area of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park is closed as conservation officers give the bear time to recover from the incident. (Alberta Parks)