When Curtis Matwishyn headed out for another day of photographing wildlife in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park, he never expected this.
“I would estimate that I’ve encountered over 100 bears in the wilderness when I’ve been on the job or out shooting photos and this is the first time I’ve been on foot, on a trail, that I’ve met a truly habituated bear that basically had no fear of people anymore,” Matwishyn said.
Matwishyn first saw the young black bear when driving. He decided to pull over and walk down the trail – hoping to get some pictures of it.
The bear was about 100 metres away when Matwishyn pulled out his camera.
“It gave me a look and sniff in the air and it started walking towards my direction on the trail,” Matwishyn said. “It was not a run or anything, it was slowly walking down the trail and sniffing some trees.”
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Once the bear was 40 metres away, Matwishyn put his camera away and brought his bear spray out.
“I started to loudly say ‘hey bear, hey bear’ trying to identify myself as a person but it wasn’t fazed at all,” Matwishyn said.
He remained calm and started walking backwards towards his car but the bear kept following.
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Matwishyn then pulled the trigger on his bear spray which worked as designed.
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“The bear is of concern for us,” said Dustin Guedo, Prince Albert National Park ecologist. “It’s definitely unusual behavior.”
Park employees are on the lookout for the bear and are attempting trapping efforts. In the meantime, they’re using this situation as an educational opportunity.
“If you see a bear, give it as much space as you can,” Guedo said. “If people see bears, we ask that they never get closer than 100 metres. These are wild animals, there is no fence.”
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He also recommends that people hike in groups and carry bear spray – something Matwishyn says he’s glad he had on him.
“Make noise when you’re hiking, don’t feed the wildlife, this is the kind of behavior you can expect if bears do get fed,” Matwishyn said.
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