Here at Ask A Bear, I get asked a lot of questions that basically boil down to: “If I do ___ , will you eat/kill/maul/maim me?” All of which is to say you humans are really afraid of us. I can understand, what with the claws, and the teeth, and the half-ton of pure muscle. But more often than not, I’m not interested in ruining your day. When I’m out in the wild, I want to snack, chill, and just watch the river flow by.
That’s precisely what happened in this amazing encounter in Alaska's McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. Alaska Fish and Game employee Drew Hamilton was filming other bears fishing in the river when this positively massive brown bear ambled by, yawned, and plopped down for a sit just feet away. Watch:
McNeil River has some of the highest concentrations of wild brown bears in the world. Drew did the right thing by not panicking and asserting his presence without being aggressive or running off. The bear responded by moving off. (We can quibble all day about why he was so close to a river full of bears, but it’s part of his job, so let’s just call it a win.)
This fantastic moment got me thinking about other close shaves between our two species over the past year. Click through the slideshow to see my 8 favorite bear encounters on YouTube.
Mother and cubs stroll past tourists in Katmai
When Mama Bear and her cubs hit the beach, everyone wisely makes room. In return, she gives some lucky humans a so-close-you-could-pet-her view. (Hot tip: Don’t.) The only tragedy? That mugging friend who jumps in the middle of the shot at the end—twice.
Black bear climbs tree to peek in deer stand
A roly-poly black climbs 20 feet up a tree in a few seconds, pokes his nose into a tree stand, and makes a hunter soil his long johns before deciding to scurry back down just as fast to rejoin his ursine partner. Required watching for anyone who thinks climbing a tree puts distance between you and a bear.
Hey, grandpa and grandma: HE’S RIGHT NEXT TO YOU
Older folks are not renowned for their powers of observation, but this couple pushes the limits. They exit their house, lock the door, pad over to their car and take their sweet time doing it. All the while, a black bear hangs out next to them in the alcove and follows them to the car. Once the man notices the bear, he doesn’t even seem to be in too much of a hurry to get back in the house.
Bears are better rock climbers than you
Swimming, running, eating, and now rock climbing: There is literally nothing a bear can’t do better in the outdoors than you, as these black bears demonstrate by free-soloing a sick wall in Mexico’s Santa Elena Canyon. What about kayaking, you ask? Only a matter of time, friends.
Bear runs after Alberta trailrunners
This is a little too close a call to joke about: Two trailrunners near Ft. McMurray, AB, get pursued by an inquisitive black bear and have trouble shaking it from their trail. From the footage, it’s unclear if it’s a predatory bear legitimately pursuing them or a food-conditioned bear chasing them for a handout, but eventually the bear breaks off into the woods. Good outcome for him and the trailrunners.
Man teaches bear new tricks
Walking like a human, using a chair, clapping, playing trumpet: Watching this human-trained grizzly is worth it to understand a bear’s insane aptitude for learning. But ultimately it makes me sad, because a bear this smart and beautiful should be doing what it wants in the wild rather than performing dumb tricks by a highway.
Bear charges mountain biker
Seems trail-sport enthusiasts in Alberta can’t ever get a break. Here, two mountain bikers get charged by an enraged brown bear sow three times. They keep their distance, ready bear spray, and get away without a scratch—and you can bet they’ll be taking it slow on every blind corner from here to the trailhead.
A Grizzly Ate My GoPro
Brad Josephs captured this amazing footage of Alaska grizzlies as they frolic in the river, hunt salmon, and eventually investigate his hidden GoPro camera with fearsome tooth and claw. Bouncy music aside, it crams a massive amount of insight into how Alaskan grizzlies live, hunt, and play into just a few short minutes. I’m glad the camera survived, but based on what I’ve seen bears do to cars, I’m convinced the GoPro got off easy this time. If Josephs put a bit of salmon inside the camera housing, it could’ve ended quite differently.