'He just wanted to taste Kiwi': New Zealand kayaker says B.C. grizzly wanted to eat him
Jonathan Smith is telling the story of the chase that was caught on video
A New Zealand kayaker caught on video being chased down a B.C. river by a hungry grizzly bear is finally sharing his story.
"I turned around and it was swimming at me," kayaker Jonathan Smith said Thursday from his summer home in Whistler.
"Definitely, it was staring me in the eyes and wanted to eat me."
Smith had only been in Canada for a couple of months on a work visa when he nearly became a snack for the young grizzly.
The encounter began when Smith was floating down the Elaho River near Squamish on Sunday as part of his job as a rescue kayaker with a local white water rafting company.
'Kind of lost in my own world'
Smith was at the head of the group, just floating down the river in his kayak, watching for trees and other hazards in the river.
"We'd gotten though all the big rapids and at that point we were getting to the end of the river and floating through the more scenic sections," he said Thursday morning.
"I wasn't expecting any hazards at that point, so I was kind of lost in my own world at that point," he said.
One thing he did notice was some turkey vultures that flew up as the rafts floated past a dead elk carcass they had seen on the shore on previous trips.
What he did not notice was the young grizzly hiding behind some logs and guarding the carcass.
2 big ears pop up
"The rafts behind me were kind of yelling and I just thought they were having fun," he recalled, "I was just looking up at the birds."
"Apparently, what they had seen was these two ears pop up behind this log.
"Then, the bear kind of stood up and looked at them. Then, it looked at the rafts and then looked at me and just started sprinting at me."
While bears do eat humans on rare occasions, in cases like this one, many bear attacks are defensive responses to threats or surprises.
In the video, which was shot by a customer on a raft, the bear can be seen galloping at full speed into the water toward Smith.
As the bear charged into the water and began quickly swimming toward the unsuspecting Smith, one of the guides started blowing a whistle to alert him.
'That's when I turned around'
"They were trying to get my attention because I had no idea at all." recalled Smith with a chuckle.
"That's when I turned around, and the bear was around 10 feet away from me in the water, trying to chase me down and eat me."
And that's when Jono — as his friends call him — kicked his kayak paddle into high gear and took off down the river ahead of the pursuiing bear.
"It was kind of scary for about five or six seconds, but it was kind of cool as well that I didn't get eaten."
After a few more seconds the bear appeared to give up the chase, and Jonathan was left with no scratches and a good story to share.
"It was pretty terrifying. There is no denying it is pretty scary. But afterwards, I was like, that's pretty cool. You don't get to see that every day."
'He just wanted to taste Kiwi'
The uniquely Canadian experience will undoubtedly be a highlight of his summer working in B.C. he said.
"They call me bear bait at work. It's awesome," he said. "They say he just wanted to taste Kiwi."
"This is definitely a story that folks back home won't believe."
As for the bear, there are no hard feelings on Smith's part regarding its apparent desire to chase him down.
"Nothing in New Zealand wants to eat you, so it was a lot different," he said. "We were in his feeding grounds, so it was unfortunate that we interrupted him."