Jasper National Park wildlife officials have destroyed a black bear after the animal attacked and killed a visitor’s dog.
The animal demonstrated predatory behaviour and showed little regard for being in close proximity to humans, Parks Canada officials said—factors which led to the decision to euthanize.
“It’s the last decision we want to have to make,” Jasper National Park’s resource conservation manager, Dave Argument, said on April 24.
According to Parks Canada on Saturday, April 22, two visitors were walking their two dogs on the Wabasso Lake Trail when they were approached at close range from behind by a male black bear.
The dogs were not leashed. Officials learned from the hikers, who reported the incident, that one of their pets responded aggressively to the bear, pushing it up a tree.
“One of the dogs engaged it, ran towards it, barking,” Argument said.
But the bear came back down the tree. It attacked one of the dogs. The hikers deployed bear spray in an effort to deter the bear but could not save their pet.
“The bear left the scene with the dog it had killed in its mouth,” Argument said.
The hikers, who were returning from their hike to Wabasso Lake, retreated to the parking lot, which was approximately 750 metres away. From the trailhead they called Jasper National Park dispatchers, who sent out human/wildlife conflict and coexistence staff. Attending officials searched for, but did not locate, the bear and the dog.
The following day (Sunday, April 23), officials did locate the bear, and the dog’s remains, close to the scene of the incident.
“Our condolences go out to the pet owners involved in this incident. This is a sad reminder that all pets should be kept under control and on-leash at all times within a national park,” Jasper National Park said in a statement.
Because of the predatory actions of the bear, the food reward and the fact it was not dissuaded by human interaction (the hikers not only discharged bear spray at the animal, but “punched it” with the can, according to the report), officials made the difficult decision to destroy the bear.
“Given the behaviour it had exhibited, the high level of habituation…a decision was made at that time to destroy the bear.”
Typically, if a bear is surprised by humans or acting defensive, Parks Canada prefers to employ other techniques to mitigate further conflicts—hazing or removing attractants, for example.
“Where this encounter differed was in that this bear approached these people in very close quarters,” Argument said. “Because the bear was taking the first step…that behaviour in itself is concerning enough.”
The bear weighed 204 pounds and was not previously known to wildlife officials. Pending a necropsy, the bear appeared healthy and was likely just recently out of hibernation, Argument said.
Parks Canada is reminding the public that bear season is upon us and that all pets should be kept under control and on-leash at all times within a national park.
“If you feel the need to take your dog into places like this, make sure you keep your dog under physical control at all times,” Argument said.
As of Tuesday, April 25, all trail closures from this incident have been lifted.
When asked whether the hikers would be charged under the National Parks Act, Parks Canada said the situation is currently under investigation.
Bob Covey // email@example.com