Fair, I do have a penchant for leg pulling, but I finally convince him to get out of bed. We dress quickly and head out cautiously see if we can get some snaps. Unfortunately, or fortunately I suppose depending on one’s perspective, the bear heads further away from the camp, up and around a nearby hill.
We double back to the kitchen dome, where Merkuratsuk already has the coffee on, to report our discovery.
“I know,” says Merkuratsuk. “It has been around the camp for hours. It woke me up.” Of course, it did.
As the other guests and guides gather for breakfast, the bear re-emerges from behind the hill and heads back in our general direction. Alain Legacé is keen to get us, or more specifically the two photographers among us, “close” to the bear, so we quickly gear up to track it.
Legacé looks over and immediately scoffs at my fluorescent yellow Helly Hansen rain jacket outer layer. “Got something a little less conspicuous?” he asks. I swap layers, covering up with a drab dark blue hoodie. Note to neophyte bear trackers: don’t go bright. Clothing change made, we set off.
Legacé leads five of us in quick pursuit of the bear, which is feeding on pockets of wild bog blueberries (they’re delicious, can confirm). We’re upwind, so there’s no doubt it can smell us. And periodically, it stops to turn and gaze in our direction. Lagacé quietly instructs us to slow and get low when the bear turns. And if it’s looking right at us, he encourages us to pretend like we’re eating. Lagacé pulls up a large chuck of vegetation and holds it in his mouth. His theory: the predator isn’t threatened by other animals bowing to its dominance and feeding nearby.
And it certainly seems to work. We eventually close to within what feels like about 10 metres of the bear. So close, in fact, that I can snap clear photos of the animal without zooming on my iPhone. Indeed, so close, that as the bear circles around to put me nearest it, I start to get nervous that perhaps we’re too close.
I. Put. My. Phone. Away. Slowly.
Bend. Further. Down.
Pretend. To. Eat.