Tourist attacked by bear during Alberta vacation wants bruin to live
Torben Lund with daughter, Katrine, and son, Andreas, are pictured during their vacation to Alberta, during which Torben was attacked by a bear in the Canmore area. Supplied photo/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency
Leave the bear alone.
It may not be the message you’d expect from the tourist mildly mauled by the Canmore bruin just days ago, but Torben Lund says the bear shouldn’t be punished for acting like, well, a bear.
“I’m not just some stupid Danish tourist — I’m a biologist, and a conservationist and I’ve been a birdwatcher for 40 years, and I’m not interested in any harm coming to the bear,” said Lund.
“I don’t want it killed or relocated or anything. It was just doing what a bear does, I know that.”
With just one day to go in a four-week vacation with his family, Lund is headed home to Copenhagen as something of a celebrity in his home nation of Denmark, having gone to Canada to get a taste of the famous wildlife, only to end up being tasted himself.
On Friday, he’s due to appear on Danish television to give his version of Saturday evening’s attack near Canmore’s Quarry Lake, which left the 53-year-old with minor injuries but a major story for the folks back home.
But first, Lund wants to clear up some misconceptions about the attack, which now has Fish & Wildlife officers patrolling the area and waiting for three traps to do their work.
The decision to trap the bear is at the root of the controversy, since the bear could end up being euthanized or relocated to an area where it fails to thrive.
Critics — including this columnist — have said bears shouldn’t suffer the price for human stupidity, and a birdwatcher strolling through a berry patch should have known better.
But Lund says it wasn’t like that.
First of all, he is a university-trained biologist who was very aware of his surroundings and the potential for bruins in the area — but this appeared to be a populated park, only 50 metres from homes and with plenty of other users.
“It was a suburban area, more like a park, and it’s been misrepresented in the news I think,” said Lund.
Rather than wandering blissfully through the bushes, Lund says he was walking on a well-used path scouting for good bird watching spots — and that’s when the bear suddenly charged.
“It came out of the bushes — I heard something coming, and I looked to the side, and it was about three metres away, and then it just jumped me,” he said.
“It didn’t get up on its hind legs or anything, it just went for me, so it was an actual attack, but probably what they call a defensive attack.”
Lund says it was almost surreal to realize Canada’s largest predator was charging at him.
“It was so fast, and all I could think is ‘this can’t be happening,’” said Lund.
Fortunately, it was over quickly and without serious injury — and as the bear broke off the attack, Lund said he didn’t hesitate: “I got the hell out of there.”
The damage was limited to bruises, a torn jacket and a slight puncture on his hand, and Lund says that surely proves this wasn’t a bear looking to kill.
“Probably the bear was feeding on the berries and it felt I was too close so it wanted to scare me — I don’t think it was trying to kill me, or it would have,” said Lund.
“After about five to seven seconds it just backed off, and I left the area immediately.”
But his lucky break left him a target for wildlife advocates and columnists, who have often criticised human encroachment on wildlife areas.
Lund’s encounter has been held up as an example of humans meddling in bear territory, for which the bear ends up suffering.
“I know I’m the scapegoat, I figured that out from the start — and I know the agenda of course,” he said.
But in his defence, Lund says he did his best to be bear aware — and though the area had bear warning signs, due to a sow feeding in the area with her cubs, the Dane says the signs didn’t make the need for caution clear enough.
“There were signs, but they were just the same signs you see everywhere about being in bear habitat,” said Lund.
“I didn’t know there was a bear in the area.”
On Twitter: @SUNMichaelPlatt