A family member of the couple fatally attacked by a grizzly bear during a backcountry camping trip in Banff National Park said the two were long-time partners who loved each other and the outdoors.
Speaking on behalf of the victims' families, Colin Inglis identified his nephew Doug Inglis, 62, and Jenny Gusse, 62, as the two backcountry campers killed deep in Banff National Park Friday. Their dog was also killed in the attack.
Inglis said the two lived in Lethbridge, Alta., and they had been together since university. He said they were on day five of a week-long trip, and would go out at least twice a year — often in the spring and fall.
"They are a couple that loved each other and loved the outdoors. And they were highly, highly experienced in being out back, whether it be serious treks or canoeing, whitewater canoeing in the North country," he said.
Inglis said Doug worked as a lab scientist, and Gusse was the lead technician at the same workplace.
Inglis said the two provided daily updates from their trip to him from their Garmin inReach — a GPS often used by backcountry campers and hikers which allows texting and other messages from remote locations.
He said he received a message that day that they hadn't gotten to the site they had intended, but that they were fine and setting up camp.
"They were probably making dinner and they were letting us know that they were OK," Inglis said.
But later that evening, he said, he received an SOS from the Garmin that there had been a bear attack.
"The message said, 'Bear attack bad,'" Inglis said.
Colin Inglis said his nephew and partner worked together in Lethbridge. (Peter Evans/CBC)
Parks Canada also received an alert from a GPS device in the Red Deer River Valley west of Ya Ha Tinda Ranch at about 8 p.m. on Friday indicating a bear attack. Inglis said Parks Canada told him that one bear spray canister was used, but not the second one.
"That night was a start, obviously, of what's continuing to be a grieving process. You have that notification, you know that something bad is happening. You don't have a lot of information," Inglis said.
Inglis said the couple were highly experienced in the backcountry with an extensive set of equipment, and the attack was a devastating case of the "wrong place at the wrong time."
But he's remembering the couple for what they loved doing.
"I was hiking in Waterton with Doug in June and we were looking forward to many more adventures. As were lots of his friends. One of his friends told me one of the things they were looking forward to was taking their son out with Doug because he was so knowledgeable," Inglis said.
The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., in March 2020. Parks Canada received an alert from a GPS device in the Red Deer River Valley at about 8 p.m. on Friday indicating a bear attack. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
"And Jenny … she was the botanist. She could identify all these wonderful plants that were out there, this berry or this flower. And so that's the kind of love they had for the environment that they were out in."
Parks Canada says bear had lower than normal body fat
Parks Canada said the bear that killed Inglis and Gusse was not previously known to them and had lower than normal body fat for this time of year.
In a media release issued Tuesday, Parks Canada said it conducted a necropsy on the bear, and found it to be a non-lactating older female estimated to be over 25 years old.
Parks Canada said the bear was deemed to be in fair body condition, but her teeth were in poor condition.
Horses grazes at Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, which is about 85 kilometres west of Sundre and about 150 kilometres northwest of Calgary. The attack occurred in Banff National Park west of the ranch. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC)
"DNA samples from the bear have been sent to the lab [and confirmed] that it was the animal responsible for the attack. Updated results from these studies will only be provided if they differ from the information shared to date," the media release said.
The bear was shot and killed hours after the emergency response call was received, when Parks Canada staff arrived at the scene and the bear charged the response team.
Parks Canada said two cans of bear spray were found at the scene, and the couple's food had been hung appropriately.
"The individuals were on a backcountry hiking and camping trip and had the appropriate permits to do so. The individuals were also travelling with their dog," Parks Canada said.
At the time of the incident, there was no active bear warning or area closure in place. The area remains closed to the public.
"Bear attacks are rare occurrences. Fatal bear attacks are even less frequent. Over the last 10 years, there have been three recorded non-fatal, contact encounters with grizzly bears in Banff National Park. These incidents were the result of surprise encounters. This incident is the first grizzly bear-caused fatality recorded in Banff National Park in decades," Parks Canada said.