What’s your favorite bear story?
Would you change your life radically to pursue your passion?
A couple’s passion for Kermode bears revealed as a result of CBC’s Hockeyville ’09 show. Read on, and post your comments.
Imagine the shock when Harreson Waymen, out for a walk near his home outside of Terrace, B.C. last winter, tripped and fell into a swallow under a fallen tree –only to find himself nose to nose with a bear.
“I scrambled to get out of there as quickly as possible,” Waymen recalls. It didn’t take long to realize that he’d fallen into a bear’s den — but not just any den, it was one belonging to a Kermode (http://tiny.cc/UEqg9). The Kermode is a black bear with a genetic mutation which turns its coat white (don’t confuse it with a polar bear). It lives in the B.C. rainforest, in the pacific northwest of British Columbia. The First Nations’ people call it the “spirit” bear, and the city of Terrace uses the bear as one of its symbols.
Waymen is originally from California, but his wife Stephanie grew up in Terrace. The two moved back to the area five years ago. Stephanie never saw a Kermode while growing up, but always had a fascination with the bear.
Much to her surprise, they’ve frequently spotted Kermodes near their home since moving back. In fact, she now considers herself a Kermode bear chaser, capturing them with her still and video cameras. She and Harreson have made the pursuit and celebration of the Kermode the focus of their lives. They’re building a website dedicated to preserving the Kermode’s habitat by teaching people about this unique creature (http://www.bcspiritbear.com).
But even given this pursuit, they never envisioned snuggling with them. It’s one thing to take pictures of a bear, it’s another to land in its den. Lucky for Harreson, the hibernating bear was too dopey to show any interest in his human intruder. Later, his wife would set up a video camera outside the den to capture image of the sleeping giant.
I met the Waymens while in Terrace, shooting features for CBC’s Hockeyville 2009 program. They’re thankful that the Hockeyville celebration would include a nationally televised feature on one of the local treasures – one that needs protection. It’s one of the unexpected spin-offs of celebrating the game hockey and connecting with small towns in Canada.