When a group of five arrived at the Babine River bridge, little did they imagine that they would have a close encounter with a massive Grizzly.
Jay Dupras, his father, his nephew, son and his best friend were all at the Babine River bridge on Sept. 30 between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to check river conditions for steelhead fishing for next day.
“There were already a couple of photographers on the bridge so we figured they were there to get some pictures of the many grizzlies that feed on the plentiful salmon in the river. As we came on the bridge we could see the bear feeding below along the bank. This is a common sight for us as my family has been catch and release steelhead fishing here for over 45 years,” wrote Dupras in a message to Lakes District News.
Dupras’ group then moved to the middle of the bridge to keep an eye on the bear and give themselves safe distance as the bears occasionally come up the bank and cross the road into the woods to access the river further up rather than passing under the bridge where the shoreline narrows.
“As expected the bear came up the bank but what happened next was atypical from the behavior we’ve seen in the past. The grizzly started towards the bridge to cross over, normally the bears avoid crossing the bridge due to the heavy logging traffic,” he said.
Dupras’ wife, Lonnie Dupras later uploaded a video of the incident in which the bear is seen walking casually past onlookers. According to Dupras, usually anglers in the area warn each other of any potentially dangerous movements of bears and even discourage bears from accessing the bridge.
“The photographers did not deter the bear and allowed the grizzly to pass them on the bridge for better pictures which left us in a situation where we did not want to be,” said Dupras, adding that the safest option for them was to group together, be as still and quiet as possible and allow the bear to pass.
“If we had moved off the bridge the bear could have viewed us as prey running away or as an aggressor trying to get to the food source.”
In the video, the bear is then seen charging towards the group.
“When the grizzly lunged at us, it was testing us to see if we would run or attack and because we did neither it continued on it’s way. Yes, we were all a bit scared; who wouldn’t be when a 800 pound grizzly lunges at you! It was an amazing experience and we were lucky it didn’t turn out in tragedy, but I would be happy not to be in that situation again,” he said.
Dupras, who is a capital project manager, lives with his wife and son in Prince George and the rest of his family lives in Smithers. However, the Babine River area has been the family’s fishing spot.
“The grizzlies have been a part of our annual fishing trip and this is the first time in 45 plus years that our family has had an encounter like this. We have huge respect for the grizzlies and their habitat and do not wish to see the bears or the fishing be affected because of this one incident,” he said adding that the photographers allowed the bear to cross the bridge again next day while his family was down by the river.
“In fact one of them gave my 13 year old nephew grief for yelling down to us that a bear was traveling down the river bank towards us. He said he didn’t want him to scare the bear back into the woods. Which means if my nephew hadn’t been there, the guy would have let the bear come right down on us,” said Dupras.
Dupras hopes that such poor etiquette around bears of a handful few wouldn’t put a stop to fishing trips to the location and the tradition for fishing there would continue in his family.
“My advice is to be respectful of the signage and warnings, don’t turn your back or run if you don’t have to and don’t put yourself or others in an unsafe situation for the sake of a picture. Just give the bears their space and enjoy from afar,” concluded Dupras.