‘Magical, dangerous’ bear encounter inspires Yellowknife artist in Canada’s Northwest Territories

Walden says it was practically dead silent as she painted a beautiful sunset over Great Slave Lake. Then a bear arrived. (Nick Thibault)
It’s not uncommon for Yellowknife artist Jen Walden to take a walk into the bush to find a setting to paint.

It’s not even uncommon for her to see a bear or other wildlife in the distance on these walks.

But last weekend, Walden hardly expected to come within four feet of a curious black bear.

Walden says it was practically dead silent as she painted a beautiful sunset off an island on the east arm of Great Slave Lake. She and a crew were filming an episode for a local reality TV show, with Andrew Moore from Yellowknife Sport Fishing as a guide.

She was on some down time, perched in the bush with her paint kit set up on a fallen log.

Walden’s painting kit along the shore of Great Slave Lake. (Nick Thibault)
“It was gorgeous.”Jen Walden, Yellowknife artist
“And I just looked up to look at the light in the sky again … and there was a black bear about four feet away from me.”

Walden says the bear had walked up the hill she had just hiked up about an hour earlier. She says she didn’t hear him approach because the ground was completely covered in moss, almost like a carpet.

“It was really neat because when I did see him, I froze, I didn’t move and he wasn’t moving and it occurred to me, you know, in the back of my mind — the part that was still calm — was thinking, ‘Wow, it is so quiet out here right now.'”Jen Walden

Walden says after “a while” — seconds, that felt like minutes, she says — the bear walked along the log where her paint kit was, right toward her.

She says she slowly reached for her bear spray and then stood up slightly, spooking the bear away.

“I took my cue for me to walk the other direction,” Walden said with a laugh.

Walden says she left her things and swiftly walked back to her camp. She returned to her painting location a little bit later, with a few other people and a gun for safety.

She says they returned to find no bear, but definitely evidence of a curious one.

She says the bear had eaten some of her paint, smudged her paint pallet, and chomped down on a water-proof camera, a life jacket and a can of bug spray.

Walden says the bear had eaten some of her paint, smudged her paint pallet, and chomped down on a water-proof camera, a life jacket and a can of bug spray. (Nick Thibault)

Walden says she never felt panicked in the situation, but wondered about her own complacency about something like that happening.

She also just couldn’t get over the whole experience.

“Half of my brain was saying you know, this is a very dangerous situation that you need to get out of,” she said.

“And then the other half of my brain just couldn’t get over how amazing it was. I was so close to him, I kept thinking, gosh, his fur is so shiny, it’s so quiet, there’s this beautiful sunset right behind it. It was a really magical experience.

“At the same time, it was quite an adrenaline rush that will be imprinted in my brain forever.”

And, maybe imprinted on some new upcoming art pieces.

Walden says people can expect to see a few bears in her fall series.

CBC News

CBC News

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