A grizzly bear that terrorized a couple for roughly 12 hours on a remote lake in the Northwest Territories was known to be a problem, according to a territorial wildlife officer.

The man and woman, who are originally from the U.S., were on a canoe trip 480 kilometres east of Yellowknife when the bear trashed their camp, destroyed their canoe and trapped them in the area of Hanbury Lake. 

“It was a long 12 hours,” said Lee Mandeville, a wildlife officer for the North Slave region who helped with the rescue. “They looked exhausted. They had no place to go. They had no mode of transportation.”

The couple called for help on a satellite communicator on July 14 around 10 p.m. local time, said Mandeville. 

He and another wildlife officer flew 2.5 hours northeast to the couples’ campsite the next morning.

As the helicopter approached, Mandeville could see the couple stranded on a point in distress.

Wildlife officer Lee Mandeville said the bear was getting more aggressive. (Submitted by Lee Mandeville)

“Fast running water, like rapids behind them, whatever was left of their camp and the bear probably 30 to 40 feet from them approaching them,” he said. 

“That’s pretty aggressive,” said Mandeville. “Basically pinning them in the area where they had no escape.”

‘Getting more bold’

He said the couple was visibly shaken and relieved when the helicopter landed. Mandeville shot and killed the bear. 

The territory’s departments of the environment and natural resources had issued warnings about a “problem” bear in the area, said Mandeville. The grizzly had been causing problems for other campers for the last three years, he said. Wildlife officers had previously scared the bear away from people.

“This year it was decided it’s getting worse and the bear is getting more bold,” said Mandeville.

He said the roughly 225-kilogram bear looked healthy, but its aggressive behaviour made it a danger. Mandeville took samples of the bear and brought them back to Yellowknife for testing.

Mandeville is encouraging people travelling in grizzly country to always be prepared. He says to always bring bear spray, a gun if possible, communication devices, and to the necessary research and have a plan.

He believes the couples’ call for help saved their lives. The RCMP agree.

“The travellers were well prepared and had planned to bring a communication device on their trip, which definitely helped them,” said Staff Sgt. Yannick Hamel, operations manager for Yellowknife RCMP.

After arriving back in Yellowknife, the wildlife officers escorted the couple back to their hotel.

“They were pretty grateful,” said Mandeville. “One of them said I think, they just want to sleep for a day or two.”

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