The two campers killed in a grizzly bear attack in Canada’s Banff National Park managed to send a desperate message before succumbing to their injuries.
“Bear attack bad,” the emergency message read, according to Colin Inglis, uncle of Doug Inglis — who was found dead last weekend alongside his longtime partner, Jenny Goss, and their dog.
The terrible message was sent via a Garmin inReach satellite communicator last Friday night. It was received with an SOS signal, which was triggered by a person pressing the device’s emergency button for three seconds.
“So one of them entered into it [text] “inReach” manually, Colin Inglis told NPR.
The terrifying message stands as direct evidence of the moment when a backpacking trip to enjoy the fall foliage became a tragedy. The case is also a mystery: How did two veteran backpackers known for doing everything right become the victims of a rare bear attack?
“This incident is the first grizzly bear death recorded in Banff National Park in decades,” Parks Canada said in a letter to NPR.
The couple knew the terrain and had bear spray
It appears that even the best preparations could not have prevented the deadly attack. When the human wildlife attack response team arrived at the campsite, they found a bear-proof food bag hanging in a tree, as recommended. An empty can of bear spray was also found at the site, indicating that campers attempted to force the animal to leave.
The couple, both 62, knew the area well – the Red Deer Valley in Banff.
“They roam this area several times a year on a long journey,” Inglis said. “They were in this area in the spring.”
As they made their way on a week-long trek through Banff, the backpackers used their inReach device to send regular updates to Inglis and to Gusse’s mother. Inglis said the couple was meticulous in planning their adventures. They were both cautious by nature: in their professional lives, they worked together in laboratories, doing agricultural research.
“Doug and Jenny were very experienced. They did everything right,” Inglis said. “This is an unusual circumstance. They ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Earlier in the day, the couple told Inglis they had experienced delays while hiking, but all was well. Inglis says they likely arrived at the campsite and were preparing dinner when that message was sent, just before 5 p.m. But after a few hours, things went terribly wrong.
The attack occurred in a very remote area
Doug Inglis and Jenny Goss set up camp in a permitted area, along with their border collie Trace. At the time, there was no active bear warning or closure in the area, according to Parks Canada.
The agency says it received the same message from the inReach device that Inglis had, alerting them to the bear attack at around 8 p.m. local time.
It took hours to reach the site of the violent attack, with the response team having to travel over ground, as bad weather ruled out the use of a helicopter. Parks Canada says the area is very remote and there were no witnesses to the attack.
She added: “We will never know the full details of what led to the attack and we will not speculate.”
When their bodies were found, “Jenny and Doug were close together not far from the tent in their socks,” Inglis said, citing what Parks Canada told him. He said this was unusual, noting that it was wet outside.
“Their shoes and boots were in the tent, which suggests that something had happened, as one or both of them had come out of the tent,” he added.
The bear tried to attack the emergency team
When the response team arrived after 1 a.m., they discovered the bodies of the two campers and their dog. Parks Canada said they also spotted the bear, which “displayed aggressive behavior and proceeded to charge toward the response team.”
The bear was shot and killed. The autopsy found that she was an “elderly, non-breastfeeding female” over 25 years old. While she was considered to be in good condition, the bear’s teeth were in poor condition and she had a “lower body fat percentage than normal for this time of year,” according to the Parks Canada website.
The bear was not tagged or wearing a collar — unlike Bear 148, a large bear that was Shot and killed in 2017. That bear was famous for its close contact with humans, like its time I chased the hikers In banff, or when A woman was chased on a sled.
But in general, bear attacks are very rare. “Over the past 10 years, there have been three recorded non-fatal encounters with grizzly bears in Banff National Park,” according to Parks Canada.
Inglis agrees that it is futile to speculate on exactly what happened to his nephew. But he adds: “You know, if they hadn’t been late, they would have been in a different place.”
“They were wonderful people.”
“They were really special human beings,” Inglis said. Although he is Doug’s uncle, he also considers the couple his close friends.
“I’ve known Doug since the day he was born,” he said. “He’s more like a little brother than a nephew.”
Doug Inglis was a scientist, and Jenny Goss was a research technician in his labs. They worked in agriculture and agri-food in Canada and had connections to the University of Lethbridge & Who remembers them As people they have made a significant impact, through their own research and by mentoring students in fields ranging from agricultural biotechnology to neuroscience.
In everything, they were partners.
“They’ve been together almost completely since they went to college,” Inglis said. “They were a complete team in all aspects of their lives, whether it was at work, at home, gardening, canoeing or hiking.”
The couple were deeply concerned with environmental protection, and loved Canada’s national park system, seeing themselves as stewards of that wilderness.
“They were great people. They were very nice people,” Inglis said.
The tragedy is also a reminder of the things that are beyond our control when we go out into the wilderness, Inglis says.
“Being outdoors, it’s a nightmare that won’t go away, you know? That’s just the reality.”
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