|A grizzly bear. (FILE PHOTO)
EDMONTON - A grizzly bear is dead and a 48-year-old man is expected to recover after a bear attack sent him to hospital Tuesday, Mounties say.
"It didn't sound like it was anything life-threatening," Swan Hills RCMP Sgt. Clifton Dunn said regarding the hunter's injuries.
"Definitely he's worse for wear, no doubt about it. Considering what he went through, he's a pretty tough fellow. He was lucky."
Dunn said the man, whose identity has not yet been released, was out bow-hunting moose Tuesday when he was attacked. He was making moose calls and managed to startle a bear cub.
"He scared it and the mother attacked," said Dunn.
The man managed to shoot the bear and stop it from attacking him before walking five kilometres to call for help. He was airlifted to hospital in Grande Prairie and soon afterward a bear response team was dispatched to look for the animal.
By early afternoon Wednesday, the team came across what they believe to be the animal involved.
"The bear response team has found a grizzly, dead when they found it. It was about (115 metres) away from the scene of the incident," said Brendan Cox, a spokesman with the province's solicitor general's office.
Cox said an autopsy will be done on the female bear to figure out how it died and verify that it was involved in the attack but they believe it was shot.
Officers have decided not to pursue the cub, but believe it has a good chance of survival.
Cox explained that every bear contact situation is dealt with in the same way and DNA may be used to link the animal to the attack.
Dunn said these kinds of attacks are not common.
"There's definitely grizzly bears around here. As anybody that knows the area, there's even bears occasionally seen in and around town," he said.
"But as far as attacks I'm not aware of any that's recent at all."
However, Cox said because both Grizzlies and black bears call the area home outdoor enthusiasts should be wary of them.
"Everyone who is out enjoying Alberta's wilderness, be it hunting or otherwise, should always be carrying bear spray and have it accessible and ready to use at all times and be aware of their surroundings at all times. It is unfortunate this Grizzly Bear was killed," he said.
"In the Swan Hills district it is a relatively good berry crop this year. There's been 15 bear occurrences to date. It's less than other years, but the year's not over yet."
According to Cox, there have been 145 instances where people and bears have crossed paths in the area in the past five years. The most occurred in 2010 when 36 encounters were noted.
They range from a simple sighting to a more serious attack.
According to experts, bear encounters come down to two basic factors: resources and threats.
"If bears are having more difficulty finding natural foods because of weather changes affecting things like berry crops, it can often drive them into peripheral agricultural areas where they can access grain at this time of year," said Stanley Boutin, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta.
"The other side of it always is that if we as humans push closer or farther in to where bears are found naturally, that's obviously going to increase the encounter rate."
Boutin, who specializes in forestry-wildlife interactions and predator-prey relationships, said the recent case was likely a case of the latter.
"He was in a place where bears were normally found," he said.
"I think most hunters realize they're facing that sort of risk.
"It sounds like he didn't notice (them) -- (he) got in between a mother bear and cubs. That threat situation for the bear always leads to a much higher chance of a negative encounter...
"No one's at fault. It's certainly not the bear's fault. She's obviously reacting to what she perceives as a threat. It's a natural thing to do."
When dealing with bears in the wild, he said the best thing to do is give them space and avoid being viewed as a competitor.
"There's always a recommendation you try and be as big as you can in some ways and a little bit threatening to the bear and hope that makes them decide it's probably not worth their effort to try and have you as prey because there might be some negative repercussions," he said.