Source: Toronto Star
CANMORE, Alta. — A well-known competitive mountain biker killed by a grizzly bear was running on a trail in a wildlife corridor that people had been asked not to use, municipal and environmental officials said today.
Isabelle Dube, originally from Cap-St-Ignace near Quebec City, was running with two friends Sunday on a popular hiking trail in Canmore, 90 kilometres west of Calgary, when the bear attacked. Her companions ran for help to the nearby SilverTip Golf Course and were not harmed, said RCMP Cpl. Brad Freer.
Fish and wildlife officers later shot and killed the grizzly, which had been relocated just eight days earlier.
The trail, just outside Canmore across the lower slopes of Mount Lady Macdonald, had been subject to a voluntary closure going back as far as April to protect a corridor designed to allow wildlife, including cougars and bears, to move between habitats.
But those corridors have come under increasing pressure from recreational users, said Mike McIvor of the Bow Valley Naturalists.
"Particularly with the advent of mountain biking, there's been a huge proliferation of trails," he said.
McIvor said one provincial official told him there are almost 200 kilometres of new trails in the area, all of them created informally by recreational outdoor enthusiasts.
McIvor said the Alberta government has been trying to keep humans off the 300-metre-wide corridors with mixed success.
"They've been trying to reduce the number of trails, (but) over resistance from recreational users," he said. "They've been taking steps to try to prevent exactly what happened."
Dube, 35, was married and had a young daughter. Her father, Lucien, reached by CBC Radio in Montreal, said he learned of his daughter's death from his son Sunday night.
"I haven't seen her in two years," he said, although he added he talked to her frequently.
Dube was the first person killed by a bear in Alberta since 1998. The attack was reminiscent of one that killed Mary Beth Miller, a 24-year-old biathlete, while she was on a training run in Quebec in 2000.
Donna Babchishin, a spokeswoman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, confirmed the bear was the same 90-kilogram, four-year-old grizzly removed from the upper Cougar Creek area, a residential area east of SilverTip, just over a week ago.
The grizzly had been wandering from Harvey Heights, west of Canmore, through the SilverTip Golf Course and into upper Cougar Creek where it was trapped May 27.
The bear was relocated after approaching Canmore resident Niki Davison, who was photographing wildflowers. It was tranquillized, fitted with a radio collar and flown the following day by helicopter to the Carrot Creek area, a short distance inside the east boundary of Banff National Park.
Babchishin said bears that have no previous aggressive behaviour are commonly relocated within their home range.
The bear was being monitored and had not moved from Carrot Creek until it moved into the SilverTip area about 1 p.m. Sunday, she said.
Cameron Baty, one of three mountain bikers who came upon the scene shortly after the bear attack, said the grizzly approached him and his companions from over a fallen log but did not attack.
"It behaved like it was guarding a kill," Baty said.
"I don't know the history of this bear, but if the bear was thought to pose a threat to the community, it should have been shot. I've been around bears most of my life, and in my opinion if a bear is scared away and comes back, you need to shoot it or something like this happens."
Canmore Mayor Ron Casey called it "a sad day" and said the attack will intensify debate around development in Canmore.
In recent years, environmentalists have fought for wildlife corridors on the outskirts of the community of 13,000, where resort golf courses and million-dollar mountain chalets have expanded into what was once prime wildlife habitat.
"If we want to try to cohabitate with wildlife, as sad as these occurrences are, they are also a fact of where we live," Casey said.
Baty said Canmore's strong environmental lobby has made it more difficult for recreational trail users.
"The view in town is that bears have more rights than we do. As humans, we have a right to live here as well."
Since 1992, there have been two deaths and 23 maulings by bears in Alberta.