You don’t have to be able to outrun a bear, as the saying goes, just your fellow hikers, or in this case, fellow photographers. One group of photographers almost got to test this theory when they were suddenly charged by a huge brown bear in Alaska.
The group was on a guided trip on a remote tidal flat in Alaska, happily photographing bears and other wildlife. The video posted to Instagram by @scenicbearviewing shows two bears within around 25 to 30 metres of the group.
We see a photographer with a long lens. Suddenly our attention is drawn away from the bear he is photographing, and witness a huge male bear galloping towards the group. You can almost sense the ‘rabbit in headlights’ primal reaction of the person filming.
The man with the lens, however, doesn’t sweat it. Instead, he waves his arms, roars loudly and actually runs towards the bear. The bear doesn’t seem to be put off, however. Luckily, the tactic works, and the bear lopes away from the group, its mind changed on making actual contact with the humans.
I must admit that my adrenaline stirred as I watched the footage. It unleashes some instinctive reaction, and I don’t know if could have managed not to run had I been in that same situation.
“Never run from a charging bear, even though your instinct is to run,” the Instagram post says. “This is a bluff charge. They are just trying to get you to run. They have a natural chase instinct.”
The bear-watching outfit says they have been operating for ten years and have never had an incident. They go, photograph the bears, and leave no trace. They always ensure that they are at least 50 metres away from the animals, although obviously, the bears are free to approach them.
Katmai National Park in Alaska is home to some of the biggest brown bears in North America. They are often known as grizzly bears in the other US states.
The US Department of Fish and Game advises not to run from a bear or climb a tree. “Olympic sprinters cannot outrun a bear, and running may trigger an instinctive reaction to chase,” they say. “Stand your ground. Wave your arms and speak in a loud low voice. Many times charging bears have come within a few feet of a person and then veered off at the last second.”
Easy to say, much harder to do in real life, especially without needing a change of underwear! Hats off to the photographer in the video for keeping his cool.