Deflections – Hockeyville reveals Kermode bear chasers

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.

Photo by Stephanie Waymen

Photo by Stephanie Waymen

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).

Kermode Bear chasers from Bob Babinski on Vimeo.

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.

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2 responses to “Deflections – Hockeyville reveals Kermode bear chasers

  1. Great story! He must have been in the middle of grizz country.
    In my experience of filming hundreds of bears, this type of attack was strictly motivated by hunger and competition.
    I personally have found bears way more afraid of me than I am of them.
    One day while filming in Parmenters Field, Rosswood BC, I was in the middle of a group of bears; one sow with 3 cubs and another sow with 1 cub….they just kept grazing. They’d look at me once in a while, give a big sniff, then kept grazing. Thrilling, but not threatening.
    Oh, and we a black bear IN our basement the other day, I think he was after my freshly harvested onions, lol.

  2. I had a science teacher in grade 10 named Mr. King. Mr. King, like all good Yukon teachers, started out teaching in a small town, Pelly Crossing if memory serves me, and, like many Yukoners, he was a hunter. One day he managed to shoot a moose and, being the kind of animal you can’t just sling over your shoulder and haul back to town, he drove back to Pelly to get some help. His friend was busy at the time and said he would head out in an hour to help Mr. King with the carcass. Mr. King drove back out to the moose and began doing some butchering to get the thing ready to take back to town. While he was carving up the moose a grizzly bear snuck up on Mr. King and decided to steal the kill. The bear gave Mr. King a swipe and knocked him several feet. Mr. King tried to run to his truck, but the bear was having none of that. The bear hit Mr. King again and ripped off part of his scalp. He lay there bleeding for a time and once again made a run for his truck… he actually made it this time. When he was safely inside the bear took it upon himself to give Mr. King a final scare by smashed the window of the truck. Several minutes after the bear left, Mr. King’s friend arrived. Mr. King still has scars from the incident.

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