A B.C. photographer is hoping his incredible shot of a grizzly bear toying with his camera equipment goes beyond a fleeting viral trend.
Jim Lawrence was trying to capture a photo of the bear fishing for salmon last week in southeastern B.C., but he was caught off guard when the bear started to make its way towards him.
“I set up my camera to get a photo of him across the way, but I should know better than to guess what a bear’s going to do," Lawrence told The Huffington Post B.C. in an interview. As the grizzly scrambled up the bank, the photographer ran back to his truck for another camera.
That's when he noticed the bear taking an intense interest in the camera and tripod he had set up earlier. “For the longest time he studied the screen and buttons and with his big, long-nailed paw, gently tugged on the strap," said Lawrence.
The long lens caused the camera to pivot, startling the animal. "He kind of shrugged and went back to fishing," said Lawrence.
The bear didn't take any photos, but Lawrence managed to snap one of the bear. He posted it to his Facebook where it's since gone viral.
Lawrence, who owns Kootenay Reflections, hopes that his photo can help end controversial trophy hunting in British Columbia.
"If we can do anything to bring people’s respect, [help them] gain awareness of the importance of our wildlife," he explained. "If the message can go out to just respect the bear’s habitat... Respect the bear itself."
Recreational hunting of wild game, including bears, is legal in B.C. during the spring and fall. Parts of the animal is sometimes kept as a hunting trophy, or used for food.
Provincial biologists estimate there are approximately 15,000 grizzly bears in the province, which is home to about a quarter of the remaining North American population. But critics of the bear hunt say it's impossible to pinpoint the population. On average about 300 grizzlies are killed annually in B.C.
The Alberta government suspended its grizzly hunt in 2006 and declared the bears a threatened species in 2010.
Lawrence said he had never experienced an event like this before, but has tips for other wildlife photographers: "Carry bear spray. Keep a safe distance. Get your picture and move along."
Check out more of Jim Lawrence's photos: