When Colin Inglis received a delayed message from his nephew’s satellite device, he sensed a severe calamity had befallen the couple. His nephew, Doug Inglis, and Doug’s partner, Jenny Gusse, aged 62 and hailing from Lethbridge, Alta., along with their seven-year-old border collie, Tris, fell victim to the claws and fangs of a grizzly bear while in Banff National Park’s wild expanse.
The couple was in the midst of a weeklong backpacking journey in the park and had the custom of checking in daily with Colin and Gusse’s mother. A text dispatched from the couple’s Garmin inReach satellite device at 4:52 p.m. on Friday stated they had been delayed, but all was well. However, Colin’s suspicion turned into dread at 8:15 p.m. when he received an ominous call from a Garmin official, stating that the couple’s emergency signal was activated and bore a distressing message, ‘Bear attack bad.’
The chilling three-word distress message conveyed the gravity of the situation, suggesting a terrible event in progress. The dispatch unit at Parks Canada echoed the wake of fear, receiving a similar alert around 8 p.m. from the couple’s device concerning a grizzly attack near Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, roughly 200 kilometres northwest of Calgary.
Owing to adverse weather preventing airborne rescue, Parks Canada dispatched its Wildlife Human Attack Response Team via ground transport. Reaching the site at approximately 1 a.m. on Saturday, they found no signs of life. The couple and their dog had succumbed to their injuries.
The Response Team, empowered with a specialized skill set in handling firearms and forensics pertinent to wildlife attacks, was confronted by a vicious grizzly exhibiting aggressive tendencies. The bear was subsequently euthanised, and a post-mortem examination showed the 25-year-old beast to be undernourished, aged, and suffering from poor dental health. It had no identification tracking, rendering it unknown to park wildlife officials, but DNA samples confirmed the bear responsible for the attack.
While leading authorities refrained from speculating, Colin Inglis presented his notion of his loved ones being victims of unfortunate timing and placement. Despite their meticulous preparation for these excursions, he conceded to the unpredictable nature of the wild’s inhabitants. The events leading to their demise indicate the rogue bear might have launched an unprovoked attack.
The couple had been established in their camp, exchanging check-in messages before embarking on their evening routine of quiet reading indoors, their loyal dog beside them. The remnants of this peaceful pastime, e-readers within the remnants of their crushed tent, were discovered by the parks team.
The heartbreaking aftermath showed the couple being torn from their safe haven, their bodies found outside the ruined tent. Inglis expressed his solemn observation that it was unusual for them to be outside in just stocking feet, considering the cold, damp conditions.
In the sobering reality of the investigation, Parks Canada noted the couple had stored food sufficiently out of bear reach, and two cans of bear spray were discovered. Their usage, however, remains undiscovered. Yet, evidence of a valiant struggle against the bear was revealed.
Inglis hauntingly recounted the evidence of the couple’s final fight for survival, referencing the emptied bear spray canister and the signs of struggle scattered around. Despite this gruesome ordeal, Colin finds solace in the knowledge of their bodies being found close, a testament to their unyielding bond, representing their shared existence and mutual affection.
Having first met as pupils at the University of Alberta, their mutual love for the wilderness fuelled their passion for their work at Agriculture Canada’s lab in Lethbridge. Doug, a PhD holder, and Jenny, a lab technician, drew comfort from their proximity to the backcountry they adored.
Banff National Park, the country’s oldest and most frequented national park teeming with grizzly bears and black bears, has reported only three dramas of non-fatal bear encounters in 10 years, making this event a grim anomaly. The couple’s tragic end emphasizes the sporadic yet deadly unpredictability of wild animals and underscores the importance of enduring vigilance in the wilderness.