Isabelle Dubé was a mom for Léa, wife to Heath McCroy, daughter, sister, teacher, athlete, friend and inspiration to hundreds of people living in the Bow Valley. She died at the age of 36, from a grizzly bear attack on June 5th, 2005 near Canmore, Alberta.
She accomplished a million amazing things in her life. Here are just are few of them. Riding her bike everywhere – often pulling a Burly with Léa, even when it was -20ºC in the middle of winter. Climbing Mount Logan. Winning several 24 Hours of Adrenaline team event races in Canmore with some of the best lap times for women. Riding the gully beside Ha Ling Peak on her snowboard. Third place finish at the Trans Rockies (a 700 km mountain bike race) in 2004. Two-step dancing. Loving the snow. The best birthday cakes ever. Making maple syrup toffee in the snow and poutine for everyone. Advocating, with success, for better bicycle routes in Canmore. And she is possibly the only woman ever, to clean the mountain bike trail up to the top of Stony Squaw from the Mount Norquay parking lot.
We would like you to know what happened the day she was attacked, not to scare you, but to encourage you to take the right precautions when out on the trails, and when supervising children in areas where you may encounter bears or other potentially dangerous wildlife. We also want to encourage people to continue to share information. In this way we can help to reduce the risk of another tragic death.
The bear that killed her was a healthy, young male grizzly called Bear 99. He was seen several times in and around Canmore from May 23rd to 25th, 2005, and received aversive conditioning with bear bangers. On May 25 the bear followed a Canmore woman and her dog for 20 minutes on a trail close to a residential area. May 27- 28 the bear was trapped, collared for tracking and relocated 16 kilometers away near Lake Minnewanka. On June 4th he returned to the Canmore area and was being monitored.
At around 1:30 pm on June 5th Bear 99 approached a woman on the Silvertip golf course, she was rescued in a truck and the bear was chased into the forest. At about the same time, Isabelle and two friends were running on a trail above the golf course. Shortly after, Isabelle and her two friends encountered the bear.
The three women backed away together but Bear 99 continued to approach. They did not carry bear spray or any other protection. Isabelle chose to climb a tree. Her two friends ran back to the golf course for help. When they returned Isabelle had been killed. She had been chased by the bear over 50 feet up into the tree – about 20 feet higher than a bear has ever been know to climb to attack a person. Bear 99 was shot.
Isabelle’s legacy is her inspiration to thousands of trail users, residents and visitors to the Bow Valley and beyond, to find new ways to communicate, to share information, to adjust our behaviour by always being prepared – and by doing so, helping to keep both humans and wildlife safe.
As she once said, in her French accent, with joi de vivre in her voice, “the animals don’t mind that we use these small trails, they should do something about the people driving their cars everywhere”. She would want us all to be outside enjoying the trails, rain, snow or bears. She would also be giving unlimited encouragement over the difficult roots. “You can do it”.