'It came for me': How explorer Will Steger survived a run-in with a giant grizzly

Chasing Ice
Explorer Will Steger at MPR studios in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2012

Friday was Day 67 of Will Steger's 1,000-mile trek across the Barren Lands in the Canadian Arctic. The 73-year-old explorer is traveling alone with skis and a canoe. It's the longest solo expedition of his career.

It's a challenging journey because he's doing it during the transition from winter to spring as the ice is breaking up. So far he's encountered bitterly cold temperatures and winds up to 70 mph — as well as an encounter of a more hairy nature.

"I did have a run-in with a grizzly bear about 10 days ago. About the biggest grizzly I've ever seen," he said in an interview with MPR News via satellite phone, about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. "It came for me, and I'm not carrying a rifle here."

Instead, Steger used small flares called Bear Bangers to scare the animal away.

"It wasn't scared at all; it was moving back and forth, not in a panic," he said. "And then it just slowly moved toward the bush on the banks. I didn't have a lot of negotiating powers with this; I had two more flares left. But it turned out OK."

Steger will be ending his trek soon so he can be back in the Twin Cities for a fundraiser in early June. You can find his blog on the Steger Wilderness Center website.

To listen to the full interview, click the audio player above.

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