VANCOUVER – As a visual ecologist who has spent the last few years documenting the relationship between people and bears, John Kitchin is used to checking out what his latest bear footage looks like.
But even he was not prepared for what he found on his GoPro last month.
Called ‘Death by Grizzly Bear’, Kitchin captured a very up-close-and-personal encounter with a curious bear.
Kitchin had travelled to Glendale Cove at Knight Inlet, one of the best grizzly bear viewing spots in the world, to interview a bear biologist.
He was conducting his interview below a bridge that crosses a salmon-bearing river and a female grizzly was peering down at them from her viewpoint on the bridge. He had set up his GoPro camera at one end of the bridge.
“She was being very curious, chewing on the bridge peering over at us, and making us giggle actually, while her mother and sibling were on the other side of the bridge watching some other bears in the river below,” said Kitchin in an email interview.
He said as soon as the grizzly smelled the camera she made a beeline for it.
“No longer interested in us people she grabbed the camera and walked off,” he added. “She dropped it but came straight back and then took it to the other side of the bridge to have a little chew on it.”
The footage shows a different viewpoint of a grizzly bear and we can see her claws and her teeth clearly.
“The point of view is just incredible,” said Kitchin, “her roving eye, the dexterity of her nose, her family peering to see what she has… and her claws, legs and fur as she walks along. Its the closest I’ve ever been to a grizzly bear.”
“I’d love to give all the bears cameras if the footage was that great every time, it’s just a shame she had to chew the thing.”
Miraculously the GoPro survived the event. Kitchin said it still works, although it is now held together by duct tape and the screen is cracked.
“The bear had actually managed to open and remove the protective outer casing and waterproof housing, which is undamaged, and she put a tooth through next to the lens and cracked the front,” he said.
WATCH: John Kitchin speaks with Global News about the incredible grizzly bear video caught on his camera
Kitchin said this footage reinforces his opinion that grizzly bears are very calm and inquisitve animals. “They have a huge degree of mental flexibility and in areas like Glendale Cove where they have regular interactions with people, they begin to see people as neither threat nor, as many people might think, food, or a food source,” he said.
“Their behaviour is endlessly fascinating and we are just beginning to see and record some things that nobody else has ever explored.”
Kitchin hopes this footage will also highlight the trophy hunt of grizzly bears. Glendale Cove is a hunt-free zone but it is a very small portion of the bears’ territory.
“The sad truth is that grizzly bears are hunted and persecuted in the wider landscape,” he said. “The trophy hunt is criticized by many as being unsustainable and harmful to bear populations long-term viability. The trophy hunt contributes very little to the economy especially when you consider that bear in this video has a price tag of $25,000 for a non-resident hunter but could live for 25 years or more and be photographed by thousands of tourists who in their time in B.C. will spend almost as much each.”
“Not to mention that hunting any animal in this day and age for nothing more than a rug or an ashtray, ‘the trophy,’ is morally dubious.”
WATCH: Kitchin’s grizzly bear video was also featured on the Morning News: