Hammond had found the perfect spot to set up his camera. He had a great view overlooking the river, and he could take some nice pictures of the local wildlife. But his blood ran cold when he turned around and came face-to-face with a potentially dangerous creature.
The man in question is Drew Hammond, a photographer who achieved internet fame back in 2014. Recently, though, one of his videos resurfaced and reached a new audience of social media users. It revealed a shocking encounter Hammond experienced in Alaska.
Located in the most northerly reaches of the Americas, Alaska’s known for its freezing climate. In fact, the state’s coastal areas are so cold, they’re even home to polar bears! As a result, it’s made quite a name for itself with ice-related entertainment events.
For example, Alaska holds a yearly sled dog competition. It’s called the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and it runs from Anchorage all the way to Nome, more than 1,000 miles away. The city of Fairbanks also holds the World Ice Art Championships, an elaborate ice sculpting contest.
Another one of Alaska’s claims to fame is its ursine population. Alongside the aforementioned polar bears, the state is also home to black bears and the related glacier variety, as well as brown bears. The last are perhaps more widely known as grizzlies.
State website Alaska.org writes, “Strong, unbridled, and nomadic, bears are perhaps the ultimate symbol of the Alaskan wild.” The state isn’t short of them, either; there are at least 140,000 wandering its wilderness. A such, it’s a great place to observe them in their natural environment.
That’s exactly what Hammond was doing when he made his popular close encounter video. The footage, uploaded to YouTube on Jun 15, 2014, was actually posted by a user called jprocdaddy. However, they credited it to Hammond himself.
It would seem that Hammond set up his camera on an overlook above a river to take pictures of feeding bears. Just like humans, the animals are omnivorous and consume a variety of foodstuffs, from certain grasses to meat. But in Alaska, they mostly eat salmon.
Brown bears are expert fishers, and thanks to the state’s large concentration of salmon, they have plenty to eat. As a result of this abundance of food, Alaskan bears are some of the largest in the world. Seeing them fish together must be an incredible sight.
Even so, Hammond couldn’t have guessed that he was about to witness something even more spectacular. With the camera rolling, a huge bear walks right past the photographer. Yet the footage reveals it doesn’t seem in the least bit interested in the nearby human.
Instead, the apex predator walks closer to the cliff edge, and simply seems to be enjoying the view. The bear casually watches a seagull as it passes by without even looking at Hammond. The wild animal’s so relaxed, it even lets out a big yawn!
After looking around for a little while, it decides the hilltop is the perfect place to rest. Astonishingly, the massive bear just drops itself into a sitting position in front of the doubtless amazed Hammond. The animal doesn’t even seem aware of him.
For his part, Hammond remains as still as possible, until the bear gets up and wanders in his direction. At this point, he naturally seems a little spooked, and makes a noise in a bid to deter the predator. It sounds like he’s saying, “Ay, ay, ay, ay” as the animal wanders past.
But the bear just glances at him as it walks away, and strolls off in the opposite direction. At this point, Hammond swings the camera around to reveal just how many bears are feeding at the river. There’s a massive concentration of them fishing below him.
With so many bears in the area, it’s perhaps less surprising that Hammond had such a close encounter with one. The video has certainly been popular over the years, and has had more than 20 million views thus far. In addition, social media users have liked it over 235,000 times.
Advice from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) on its website reveals that Hammond’s brush with a bear was no ordinary encounter. “It is not uncommon for residents or visitors to Alaska to see bears, usually from a safe distance,” it reads.
“But even if you don’t see a bear,” it continued, “you will never be far from one. Alaska is bear country.” The website advises that if you do have an ursine encounter, you should by very careful how you react. When they’re not treated respectfully, bears can be dangerous.
It’s uncommon – but not unheard of – for bears to act aggressively, but there’s usually a reason for it. The most common causes are when they’re protecting their cubs or staking their claim on a recent kill, according to the ADFG. So despite the comparative rarity of attacks, you can never be too careful.
Obviously, the best method of defense is prevention. ADFG advice is to make sure your garbage is properly stored. And if you do encounter a bear, observe how it acts. If it isn’t aggressive, stay as still as possible and wait until it leaves.
If you’re threatened, the ADFG website advises to try being noisy to frighten the bear away, as Hammond did. Bears usually avoid humans, but if one approaches you, give them no reason to see you as a threat. Who knows, you could end up with an amazing story, just like Hammond.