A Grizzly Bear in our Campsite

This past summer, our family started camping again. Our second outing was on the eve of the August long weekend in the southern part of Jasper National Park. Knowing that camping spots were limited we were happy to take claim a walk-in space at the Jonas Creek Campground heading north on Highway 93. We set up our tent, explored and spent a quiet evening and night on the rise among the pines.

The next morning, after packing up our breakfast stuff, we drove up the highway to see the Sunwapta Waterfalls. We spent the morning walking down river to the lower falls and then back again to the louder, more impressive upper falls. Then we headed back to Jonas Creek for lunch and quiet time.

We parked our car at the bottom of the hill and began the 3 minute walk up the hill when another camper came running towards us telling us there was a grizzly up there. It was Friday and we could see that even in the couple hours we had been gone, the campground had filled up with just 2 vacancies at the bottom of the hill where all the RVs and trailers were. Speaking with a few other campers, we decided that we should lay claim to a more populated site for the time being - and have lunch while we waited for a park ranger to show up.

Amber prepared lunch at a picnic table beneath a towering pine with a squirrel hurling pinecones at her. I walked to the tent sites with 3 other people, one of whom blew a whistle ever 5 seconds, another armed with an ax, and a couple of us with bear spray. A couple wanted to retrieve their camping stuff and so did I. We could see the bear had stirred up a site where food hadn't been properly packed up (dirty frying pans etc.). We checked out the site the couple was just setting up when the bear had come around with a man behind it yelling bear. They had abruptly abandoned their tent and retreated to the lower area. Then we meandered cautiously to our campsite.

While our tent was untouched, our dining area was in shambles. The brute had dragged our table cloth onto the ground along with all of our dishes, stove and washing basin. He had bitten into and therefore ruined our 6 gallon collapsable water jug. Most revealing however was the blood on our table cloth. This bear was injured and was looking for food where bears typically avoid at all costs.

The group of us collapsed our tent, loaded everything onto the tent and we dragged it to the bottom of the hill to our new campsite. We arrived just as the rangers did. They interviewed a few of us and then went up the hill to look for the bear, rifles in hand.

We ate our lunch looking over our shoulders. About 30 minutes later the rangers came down the hill with the announcement that they were going to have to close the campground because they were unable to locate the bear and it was too risky to have people camping in the area. Almost immediately after making the announcement the bear appeared - it had been tracking the rangers. We were ordered into our vehicles and the rangers spent about 15 minutes trying to coax the bear back up the hill where they could destroy the bear out of site of us campers. We watched the fearless grizzly bear roar and even approach the rangers before he was slowly coaxed up the hill. We heard three gunshots.

The rangers were in a hurry to get the dead beast into the back of their pickup to avoid being mobbed by the campers. After they backed the truck up to the base of the hill - where our car had been parked initially - they half dragged, half rolled the carcass down and then into the back of the truck while a couple campers clapped for them. The ranger spoke to the gathered crowd about why they had to shoot the bear. It appeared that the bear had suffered an injury from a vehicle and was not able to travel quickly enough to satisfy its caloric needs and so it was going for easy food at our campsite.

We returned to our campsite to discover that the bear had been killed in the trees beside our site. I snooped and discovered this blood soaked footprint.

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