CANMORE – A mountain biker got the fright of his life when he literally landed on a black bear on a trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre last weekend.
Wildlife officials say the man was out for a ride with friends on the Odyssey Trail Saturday (July 21) when he came upon the bear about 10 a.m. He was shaken, but luckily unharmed.
“They were coming downhill at a fairly good clip and came over a rise and there was the bear,” said Jay Honeyman, a human-wildlife conflict specialist for Alberta Environment and Parks.
“He literally hit and flattened the bear and got knocked off his bike.”
Honeyman said the mountain biker quickly grabbed his bear spray and put his bike between himself and the bear. While he had the spray ready, he didn’t end up using it because the bear took off.
“When he got his senses together, he saw a second bear off to the side, and that second bear and the bear he hit took off,” he said.
The mountain bikers took all the right precautions such as carrying bear spray, travelling in a group and making lots of noise.
But, Honeyman said, mountain bikers can travel fast and bears might not hear them coming until it’s too late.
“If you are biking downhill, even though you’re making lots of noise, you might be fast enough that the noise might not carry,” said Honeyman.
“In this case, this bear was surprised and simply didn’t hear him.”
Honeyman said the mountain bikers indicated both bears were of similar size, so he suspects it wasn’t a female and cub.
He also said the incident happened too quickly for the biker to notice whether or not the bears were feeding on buffalo berries.
“He comes over the rise and bam, so he wasn’t able to say conclusively whether they were feeding on berries,” said Honeyman. “But there’s definitely berries in that area.”
With many bears feeding on berries, a formal bear warning remains in place for the south side of the Bow River in Canmore, including Quarry Lake day use area, Peaks of Grassi neighbourhood, Canmore Nordic Centre and area trails.
On the weekend, the Canmore Nordic Centre hosted the Canadian XCO Championships and Bow Valley WildSmart gave pre-race wildlife safety talks, including advising them of the warning and bear sightings and incidents, including this one.
While it was mandatory for most riders to carry bear spray for the event, organizers of the national championships said riders in the nationals categories were not required to carry bear spray.
“However, the course takes up a small area and all marshals on course have bear spray,” said Ron Sadesky, the organizing committee’s event chief.
Honeyman, though, said bears aren’t selective as to who carries bear spray and who doesn’t.
“Those elite guys are at risk as much as anyone else,” he said.
To avoid a surprise encounter with a bear, make plenty of noise and travel in groups, be aware of your surroundings, keep dogs on leash and carry and know how to use bear spray.