Watch a Hungry Bear Catch Salmon

This week’s Expedition Raw catches up with Bertie Gregory, wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic Young Explorer who has traveled to Vancouver Island in British Columbia for three months on assignment. His series, wild_life with bertie gregory, showcases his encounters with beautiful, enigmatic creatures such as bears, eagles, and sea otters. We at home are treated to the finest few minutes of his footage every week, so it’s easy to forget the countless number of hours Bertie and his team simply wait around, preparing for nature to happen so they can nail the shot.

Bertie's most recent outing had him more excited to see rainfall than he had ever been in his career: the downpour on Vancouver Island meant that river levels were rising, which meant more and more salmon were swimming through to lay their eggs. More salmon, Bertie knew, meant more natural predators out and about to feed on them. More natural predators meant bears! Bertie set up multiple cameras—some on land, an action camera on a log in the water—ready to capture gripping footage of a bear snapping up salmon in its teeth. Although plenty of bears did wander in and out of the forest to grab a fishy meal on the river, Bertie was having a tough time landing the killer shot. Even so, he wasn’t frustrated; in fact, the waiting appeared to be just as exciting for Bertie as the payoff.

“When I tell people one of my favorite things to do is sit in a river all day, in an icy cold river waist deep, with stinking, dead salmon carcasses everywhere, waiting for a bear to turn up, they might think I'm a bit strange,” said Bertie, “but that is one of the things that I love doing.”

Bertie’s patience was rewarded. He had initially spotted a female bear lingering around where his action camera was perched. She came close as she scoped out the river, but always kept just a little bit out of frame. Bertie waited for nearly two hours, and finally the bear positioned herself front and center, snapping up a salmon right in front of the camera lens.

“One of the cool things, when you nail a shot, is that not only have you just seen something incredible, but you've also captured it,” said Bertie. “Often, it's really difficult because you see something amazing, but it doesn't quite come together for the filming or the photography ... you're a little bit annoyed with yourself. Maybe you've missed it. When everything does come together, it's like, ‘Yeah.’”

Yeah is an understatement. Bertie may be out on assignment to teach us about ecology and animals, not necessarily to share life lessons and sage advice. But watching his quest to film Vancouver Island’s most charismatic animals has definitely taught me a thing or two: namely, how important it is to stay the course even when the going is tough, to prepare yourself for whatever might happen, and above all, to be patient.

Video Producer/Editor: Monica Pinzon
Series Producer: Chris Mattle
Footage: Bertie Gregory
Associate Producer: Jared M. Gair