While Kootenay wildlife photographer Jim Lawrence crept through the foliage near Revelstoke last week, tracking a shaggy, photogenic grizzly that he’d spotted meandering along the riverbanks fishing, he wasn’t thinking about Facebook. He wasn’t concerned with whether or not he could become Internet-famous. But since he posted a photo of his resulting close encounter with the five-year-old boar, he’s had an overwhelming outpouring of social media interest, with the image ultimately going viral.
And though he’s happy for the attention, Lawrence’s primary concern is reminding people everywhere to be mindful of their relationship with the wild animals that share our planet.
“The photo has gone viral because people are becoming aware that our wildlife are being seriously threatened,” said Lawrence, noting that global animal populations have been plummeting.
He posted the image to Facebook on Thursday.
“The grizzly in the photo was fishing for kokanee and making his way upstream. I set the camera up at an opening in the brush thinking I’d get a photo of him from across the way. I should have known better than to guess what a bear is going to do,” said Lawrence, whose wildlife photography is currently hanging at the Nelson Public Library.
“They say intelligent species are curious and the big bear was no exception. He approached the camera cautiously, sniffing deeply, then stood up for a closer inspection. For the longest time he studied the screen and buttons then with a huge long-nailed paw gently tugged on the strap.”
The weight of the camera’s lens caused the camera to pivot, which startled the bear.
“At which point he kind of shrugged and went back fishing,” said Lawrence.
In an interview with the Star, Lawrence shared some facts about grizzlies. Bear-viewing and bear photography is now worth between five and ten times more to the province than trophy hunting, but a provincial hunt is currently underway.
Lawrence said the reason the BC government allows the hunt, which is banned in Alberta, to continue is that they’re “scared of losing hunting votes.”
“But many hunters oppose the hunt and 90 percent of all BC residents in polls say they oppose the trophy hunt,” said Lawrence.
He encouraged all those who have a passion for animals and for preserving their habitats to express their displeasure with the hunt, and to encourage legislators to move towards banning it.
To see more of Lawrence’s work, visit http://www.kootenayreflections.com.