I became respectful after being hunted and chased by a huge male polar bear, barely escaping with my life. I didn't realize that a person becomes part of the food chain north of a certain latitudes.
—Glenn Hopfner, author
Over 13 seasons, Glenn Hopfner was a tundra buggy driver in Churchill, Manitoba. In his second book about polar bears, The Adventures of Marco Polo Bear, he was inspired by his time in the northern part of the province and several encounters with the local wildlife.
SCENE asked him to tell us about one of those meetings.
I became respectful towards polar bears after being hunted and chased by a huge male polar bear, barely escaping with my life. I was waiting for my clients to arrive. They were delayed because of fog in Calgary that morning.
"The Adventure of Marco Polo Bear" by Glenn Hopfner (Art Bookbindery)
I thought I would make use of my time by taking the ice off of the steering jacks underneath the buggy. I was alone at what we call the launch site, the place where the clients arrive by bus to board the buggies.
It is about 25 kilometers from Churchill and is constructed like a wharf, except it is for huge machines that travel on land instead of water. I was lying on my back underneath the buggy between four huge tires tapping the ice off, when I got a strange feeling.
Page from "The Adventures of Marco Polo Bear" by Glenn Hopfner
I looked down and saw a giant polar bear's head inches away from my left foot. I thought, "Holy Shit this how I am going to die!" I had no escape except forward with very little room. I scrambled as fast as possible then hit my head on the cold steel of the differential. I saw stars and remember thinking, "At least I won't feel any thing."
The next thing I remember is standing beside one of those giant tires and I could not see the bear. I ran as fast as I could in my huge boots towards the stairs where the clients climb up the structure.
There is a huge gate that we use to keep the bears out when no one is around and it was open. I was swinging it closed when I saw the bear at my feet again. If he would have grabbed my foot I was a goner.
He decided to stand up. It was then when I saw how big he was. I am six feet tall and he was a good two feet taller than I was and he was breathing hard. I could feel his breath on my face and it wasn't pleasant.
He took a swat at me and hit the gate instead of me. He pushed the gate and me with his power swat as I was closer to getting it latched. I was just about to slide the big steel latch into place when I felt his claw against my head and he began to pull the gate open.
Author Glenn Hopfner (Rosemarie Peloquin)
He was growling now and upset that his prey was out of reach so he tried to climb the gate. That was my opportunity to get the latch in place. I climbed the stairs grabbed a broom and a shovel and banged them together shouting at him at the top of my lungs.
He was pacing and growling beneath the structure and I was still banging the shovel and yelling. The next thing I knew he had somehow managed to get his claw on one of my boots. I hit it with the shovel and he let go, then it dawned on me to go inside the buggy! So I did and I radioed for help.
Help came quickly in the form of a helicopter that scared the bear off. My clients showed up a few minutes later. As I was talking to them my knees began to shake. My knees were knocking so hard I could actually hear them.
My heart rate still rises as I write this and it happened 17 years ago. I had broken the golden rule: Never go on the ground alone during bear season. I didn't realize that a person becomes part of the food chain North of a certain latitude. Glenn Hopfner launches his latest book The Adventures of Marco Polo Bear on Sunday November 4, 2 p.m. at McNally Robinson Grant Park.
This content is provided by Glenn Hopfner. The views expressed do not express the view of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.