A wildlife photographer taking photos of a bear from long range in Prince Albert National Park suddenly became the focus of the bear, which began to pursue him and got a bit too close, forcing the man to use bear spray.
The video below shows the encounter.
Curtis Matwishyn, based out of the hamlet of Waskesiu Lake in Saskatchewan, was shooting photos of the bear with his long lens from 100 meters away.
“I was upwind of the bear and it definitely smelled me. It started to walk towards the trail so I also positioned myself further down the trail to get a photo as it crossed it,” Matwishyn wrote in his Facebook post. “It got to the trail then started walking towards me.”
When the bear closed to within 40 meters, Matwishyn put the camera down and started talking to the bear “so it knew I was a human.” He continued down the trail and veered off it to give the bear an easy path to pass him by.
“When it turned off the trail and started following me, I started shouting and waving my arms over my head to try to scare it off, but it was not phased by that,” he wrote.
He began videotaping as the bear continued to follow him, calmly saying “Hey bear, it’s okay…Hey bear, get out of here, I’m leaving…Whoa bear.”
“After about five minutes of the bear following but never directly charging me, I decided to discharge my spray and thankfully it worked as designed,” Matwishyn wrote.
The bear immediately turned and went away.
Many commenters on the Facebook post offered opinions (and criticisms) on what he did wrong, though others told him he did everything right. Even Matwishyn wished he had done one thing differently.
“In hindsight I likely should have discharged the bear spray earlier and likely will do so in the future, but there was also a strong wind and I needed to make sure I was upwind of the bear and spray,” he wrote. “Hopefully this encounter will help the bear learn to run from humans rather than approach them as continued behavior like this can lead to the destruction of a bear.
“Also for the people wondering, this was taken in a National Park in Canada so it is not legal to have a gun for protection, and I believe there are studies that show bear spray is actually a more effective deterrent than a gun.”
The encounter serves as a friendly reminder to always carry bear spray when you’re in their territory.
Photos courtesy of Curtis Matwishyn.