Claws as Big as Fingers
It isn’t easy to shake off the feeling of being chased by a barrenlands grizzly bear across the tundra. Buddy Mercredi staked a lot of claims in the ‘70s and ‘80s around the NWT and what’s now Nunavut, and that kind of work out in the bush led to a lot of close calls (and great stories). Here’s one he told us last year about a fellow he worked with at a site just north of Great Slave Lake’s East Arm.
“We almost had a fatal one with a bear. This was a big grizzly bear. That was over by Indian Mountain Lake. We were staking claims for Billiton and of course everybody’s experienced again too, so we’re all travelling alone to get the most done. Everybody’s all split up. And there’s a big grizzly in there, eh, because it’s all semi-barrenland. There are trees some places. You’ll run into a tree or all of a sudden you’ll run into a big cluster of them, and then it’ll be willows. So there’s this big grizzly and there’s a moose lying down on the point. One of the Boucher boys, Bob, he was coming down on his line [marking trees with ribbon to outline a mineral claim] and of course he had to be right there between that moose and that bear. I guess he had just come. Good thing he’s a native from Fort Resolution—they chase big buffalo and stuff there. He said that [bear] was different, though. When that thing stood up, he said, that was way different.”
“He remembered maybe 800 feet back there was a great big crevasse in the rock. He said he had just started to tie a ribbon—he hadn’t broken it off the reel and he always carried it on his finger. That bear stood up [about 15 feet away] overtop the bush, a real big old guy, eh. To that bear, ‘That’s my moose and you’re in between me and my moose.’ So the bear put the run on him, and he forgot to cut the ribbon. So when we came there with the helicopter to check it out, you could see this big long line of ribbon—‘Yeah, he ran that way.’
“So he got inside that crevasse and the bear was right behind him. It couldn’t reach him and it was clawing in at him and it just couldn’t reach him. Big teeth, big long claws like your fingers trying to pull him out; just couldn’t reach him. [And then the crew in the helicopter arrived and scared away the bear.]
“They told us to get a gun and go shoot it because we got 15 men running around. We said, ‘Why shoot it? That’s why we have the helicopter. It can go around and patrol now and then, and keep track of everybody.’ But Bob, I think that buggered him, boy, for a long time. He don’t like going to the barrenlands anymore."