Aimee and Alix O’Connor had a harrowing encounter with a grizzly bear in Carcross last week.
The sisters were out for a run on June 19, along a trail near their house in the Watson River subdivision, when a sow and three cubs came lumbering out of the bushes.
“She was so close we could see the saliva on her jaws,” said Aimee, 19.
“It was kind of the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Alix, 21. “We snuck up on her because I had my headphones in and we weren’t talking.”
“They were quite small about the size of German Shepherd,” said Alix. “For a second everyone stopped and stared at each other,” she said.
Then the sow growled.
“She kind of reared up a little bit and the cubs took off, and then she charged once,” said Alix.
The first charge was a feign. The sow stopped about four metres away.
Alix, who was in the front already, had her bear spray out and her finger on the trigger. But when she tried to fire, the nozzle broke off in her hand.
“Aimee and I just kind of slowly started to walk backwards,” said Alix. “It didn’t really dawn on us to make noise and wave around. We were just completely stunned.”
Then the bear charged again.
“She was probably about five feet away from me,” said Alix. “I was bracing myself for her to attack and my dog ran from behind both of us and lunged at her and she chased her off into the bushes.”
Their yellow lab, Mac, had saved them from the bear, but now they were worried about his safety.
“We were yelling at him to come back because at the time, we thought he was going to be in a lot of trouble,” said Alix.
There were a couple tense minutes before Mac to returned, but when he did he was unscathed.
“He’s 12 years old so we really didn’t think he had it in him,” said Aimee. “He pleasantly surprised us.”
After they collected the dog they picked up some sticks and returned home.
The next day they went back to the clearing with their father and found the broken nozzle to the bear spray.
“We tried the can again and it turns out that the can was broken so it wouldn’t have worked anyway,” said Alix.
For the sisters, who have spent the last 14 summers in Carcross where their father runs the Matthew Watson General Store, it’s not the first time that they’ve encountered bears, but this was definitely the closest call they’ve had.
“Too close,” said Aimee.
They don’t blame the bear, though.
“We surprised them and they surprised us,” said Alix. “She reacted appropriately. She wasn’t deranged or anything.
“She did have three cubs.”
Although it was scary, neither of the sisters have any intention of staying away from the bush.
“I wouldn’t say that I would stay off the trails,” said Aimee. “I just wouldn’t be naive to what’s out there, take some more precautionary measures.”
The first step is getting another can of bear spray.
“That’s next on the list when we go into town,” said Alix.
Contact Josh Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org