Below is a message posted to my blog from Derek. This message is very similar to a few others I have received so I thought it was time to answer.
“Two words: bear spray.
Great story, but there was a bunch of actions that could have been taken that would have made the situation better and help you both handle it better. I live here and NEVER recreate without bear spray, so that’s one. Second is to never run; running triggers a pursuit response, so guarantees a chase (and bears run faster than you anyway, so it’s a waste of time). Third is to recognize the difference between an aggressive attack and a defensive attack and act accordingly. In the former, the bear wants you as lunch (very, very rare), in the latter the bear just wants you gone and out of his neighbourhood. This was obviously the latter, because he passed on his message then left. Leave the neighbourhood and there’s no fear of “how far away can bears smell blood?” — they’re not sharks. Movies don’t depict bear behaviour realistically. Bears don’t stalk you for days.
A bit of education and some bear spray and your day would have been better. Congratulations for trying to achieve a challenging objective.”
Thanks for your comments and concern. This being my ninth time to The Canadian Rockies, an area I love for amazing climbing, wildlife and the friendship of Canadian people, I am very much aware of ‘standard’ bear safety theory. I think it’s safe to say we met this Grizzly under extraordinary circumstances, at a time of year when one would rarely carry bear spray for example. I think this factor is endorsed by many locals who have expressed surprise this attack happened at this time of year. Also, given the extremely difficult nature of the route we were attempting, hence the odd time of night we encountered the bear, this would be considered unusual as well.
Although much of the mainstream media described us as running – because neither Greg nor I have spoken to any of them to confirm or deny – the bear was in fact upon us almost immediately, a few steps were taken at most. We didn’t see it coming because of the dark, so we were very much controlled and not panicking and walking. When we turned the bear was running at full speed, only metres from us and the attack happened in seconds. We did not cause the attack other than by being in the place we were. I could have been carrying a Glock 9mm but it would have been of no use unless it was in my hand and ready. Bear spray would not have helped unless carried in position and ready for action. Can you honestly say this is how you walk around the hills, armed and ready at every step? Also, you should know I have the utmost respect for bears and their territory and I am very pleased to hear the bear won’t be terminated because of our, or its actions, the area is to be made ‘out of bounds’ for the winter. Hopefully this will end the speculation and uninformed comments doing the rounds on other sites.
It appears the few people that have criticised our actions are very skilled in the correct procedure if faced with a bear attack, but it also appears they have not actually been in the unenviable position themselves. If this is your case, maybe you should wait and see what you do given similar circumstances, and then maybe you would think twice about writing a somewhat condescending message. I could have started this message giving you two words but I chose not to.
You say bears don’t stalk or track people. In general I’m sure you are correct, but bears, like people, like any animal, are individual, who is to say they all act the same and rules and normal actions are always followed… The ferrets I kept as a teenager had the reputation for fierceness and biting, but they were as soft as hamsters, although I hear hamsters can give a good out of character nip if provoked!
Finally, I have not eaten an animal other than fish for 22 years, how about you? You and other peoples concern for one animal is admirable, but I wonder how many of the people criticising Greg and my actions eat animals and in doing so are a part of the massive cruelty happening on a daily basis to animals around the world?
All the best and hoping you never experience what we did.