British Columbia·Video

'She was coming at me with her mouth open': B.C. man shoots grizzly in front yard

A homeowner in central B.C. has been captured on video shooting a charging grizzly bear in his yard — a decision he says he made in trying to protect himself and his family, but one that has drawn threats in the days since.

WARNING: Video contains content that could be upsetting to viewers

A still image from the video showing Lawrence Michalchuk, 54, shooting a grizzly bear in his yard in Bella Coola, B.C. Michalchuk said the sow and her cubs wouldn't leave his property, and he was trying to protect his family. The grizzly survived. (Screenshot)

A homeowner in central B.C. has been captured on video shooting a charging grizzly bear in his yard — a decision he says he made in trying to protect himself and his family, but one that has drawn threats in the days since.

Lawrence Michalchuk said the sow and her three cubs had been living in his Bella Coola yard for days, and were acting territorial whenever he tried to leave the house.

Earlier this month, he went outside to scare off the sow with a shotgun loaded with birdshot.

The 54-year-old said he had no choice to do something about the animal, but never planned on having to shoot it.

"What are your choices? You leave a bear in the yard who thinks it owns your yard … and then your kids go out there?" Michalchuk told the CBC in a phone interview from his home on Tuesday night. 

"By leaving them on the property, you're playing Russian roulette, and I'm not doing that with my kids or my family."

Video posted online

Michalchuk's wife filmed the encounter with the bear and posted it on YouTube.

Wearing a bright orange shirt and grey sweatpants, Michalchuk yells at the bear and fires a warning shot.

The bear, which wasn't killed in the encounter, is seen at the far end of the yard near the treeline.

The homeowner yells again and runs the five steps across the gravel driveway toward the bear. The grizzly then starts to charge and Michalchuk begins backpedalling, raising the 12-gauge shotgun to his cheek.

WARNING: Video contains content that could be upsetting to viewers.

He takes about a dozen steps back across the driveway and fires as the sow reaches the gravel.

The bear falls and rolls over twice, shaking its head. Michalchuk turns and runs off-frame inside the house. The bear runs in the same direction and also goes out of view.

"Are you OK? Oh sh*t! Where is it? Are you OK? Holy crap. Where is he? Where is she? Where did she go?" Michalchuk's wife asks as he gets inside.

Michalchuk, who said he's been hunting since childhood, doesn't answer but can be heard breathing hard.

"The last thing I remember is that she was coming at me with her mouth open," he said in the interview.

"I didn't want to shoot her in the face so I clipped her in the right leg. Thank God when I shot, it did exactly what I hoped it would do: It tripped her."

Bear 'hanging around'

Michalchuk told the CBC he's been met with backlash and threats since the video was posted 10 days ago, with many asking why the father of two would provoke an aggressive mother bear with cubs.

Michalchuk, who has spent 35 years working in fisheries, said people who fault him don't understand his reasoning.

He'd just returned from a trip when his in-laws, who had been watching his kids, told him about the sow. They said making noise and yelling hadn't worked to scare it off.

The family thought the bears were after apple trees on the property, which are behind an electric fence.

Michalchuk went outside the morning after his return, after his eight-year-old daughter told him the animal was back.

"As soon as I went outside, the sow charged me into the house," he said.

"I thought, I can't leave the house with an aggressive sow," he added. "The problem was, I was gone for a bit and they got complacent in the yard and took it as theirs."

Michalchuk said it's not uncommon for homeowners to use guns to protect themselves and their property from bears in the Bella Coola Valley, which is about 420 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

"It's nice to think that when you live in the city, it's not an issue down there, but here, I mean … yeah," he said. "This has been tough for me to take."

Michalchuk said the bear eventually did leave the property. The B.C. Conservation Service confirmed it's investigating but declined to comment further. 

With files from Meera Bains

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