Mother, son battle bear in Prince Albert National Park

Daniela and Davin Hamm, pitcured, were attacked by a bear this July in Prince Albert National Park (photo courtesy Daniela Hamm).

Daniela Hamm was prepared to sacrifice her life on July 13 to save her son when a bear attacked them near the start of Grey Owl trail

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

Eleven-year-old Davin Hamm took up a fascination with Grey Owl after listening to stories his mom, Daniela Hamm, shared of her frequent hikes up to his cabin.

“He had done all this research on Grey Owl and his goal all year was ‘when we go to the park, mommy, I want to do Grey Owl’s trail,’” Daniela said.

Though Davin wasn’t born in Saskatchewan, there was something about Grey Owl that resonated with him. The Hamm family planned a trip to Prince Albert National Park this year and stayed at the Hawood Inn, visiting grandma and grandpa and getting the whole family together.

On Friday, July 13, Davin and his mom took their fat bikes with the intention of traversing the whole trail up to the Englishman’s cabin.

“We parked at the parking lot and had only gone about five minutes on the trail (when) we heard crashing coming from the right side,” Daniela said.

The loud noise came from a kilometre away and at first, she didn’t know what it was. “I was hoping it was an elk.” As soon as the black streak came nearer, Daniela thought “okay, this is a bear.”

Within a few seconds, a 250-pound beast stood in front of the mother-son duo. Daniela’s heart began racing and her motherly instinct kicked in. She told Davin to raise his arms and yell and scream to terrify the bear, as she did the same thing.

“I’ve had other bear encounters where it walks across the path, looks at us and keeps on going. But this bear took a look at us and within a fraction of second, charged us, so there wasn’t even a chance to do anything.”

That’s when she lifted her handlebars up and shoved the front tire towards the bear with Davin at her back. The two were screaming and yelling but the bear did not relent. It circled back around the two of them, going to their left side.

It was at this moment Daniela realized she may not make it out alive. Two of us aren’t dying today, only one, she thought to herself.

The bear pounced towards them, and once again, with all her power, Daniela shoved her bike against the offending animal.

She began plotting how she would sacrifice herself so Davin could make a quick escape.

“I’m going to lay you down (and) I’m going to put the fat bikes on top of you,” she said to her son. “Once it’s all done, you’re going to clear out of here.” She began her goodbyes.

“I’m going to see Jesus today.”

“Mommy, I’ll meet you there one day,” Davin said.

“You live a good life but I’m going to see Jesus and I don’t want you to regret this. This is my job, I’m to protect you and I’ll see you in heaven when you’re life is done.”

The bear circled around the back and went in for a third attack. Again, Davin’s mom raised her bike in defense, this time successfully fending off the bear.

Daniela had just experienced the longest five minutes of her life.

The bear retreated back in the direction the two came from, so they continued biking up Grey Owl’s trail for an hour. When the mother and son felt it was safe, they turned around to head back to their parked car.

Along the way, they encountered a few families and asked if they too saw any bears, but no one had.

Davin Hamm, pictured on his fat bike. He was riding this bike alongsie his mom when they were attacked by a bear in Prince Albert National Park on July 13, 2018. Photo courtesy Daniele Hamm.

“We were pretty shaken,” Daniela said.

They made it back to their vehicle and went to the park warden to tell her what happened. Because it was a single bear encounter, the warden told her they would put signage up warning other visitors of the attack.

When they drove within five kilometres of their lodging, Davin called his dad, informing him briefly of what happened.

Once they made it back, Darrell Hamm immediately felt relief.

Though traumatizing, the family continues their adventurous lifestyle. Currently they’re in Whistler partaking in various outdoors activities.

“It was a very scary experience but I don’t want my kids to think that every time you go in a bush, this is going to happen,” Daniela said.

Resource conservation manager Norman Stolley said the park closed off the trail on Monday after learning some visitors encountered a mother bear with three cubs. The park opened it again on Thursday.

Stolley said people should expect to see bears in national parks, especially in Prince Albert National Park where black bears are common.

It’s important that people take precautions, he said, when going out into nature. Carrying bear spray, bear bells and being alert to signs of bears, such as tracks or scat. “That lets you know there are bears in the area and you should be more cautious.”

The manager said he thinks that Daniela and Davin did the right thing, but warns that bikes and bears don’t mix. “Bicycles move very fast and they’re quiet and they startle bears. Then the bear gets defensive, so that could be what partly set this off.”

Bikes can trigger a bear’s “response to chase,” and so he advises people get off their bike and move slowly out of the area. “That way the bear doesn’t have that response anymore of chasing something.”

Stolley added that the bear population in the national park are healthy and expectedly active as mother bears and cubs are in search of food to fatten up for the winter.

“You’re more likely to come across them this time of the year.”