A True Bear Story

September 26th, 2023 3 Minutes

A True Bear Story 

By Charles Wormington, from the Kimberley News May 15, 1957 edition (courtesy of Kimberley Heritage Museum)

Gus Krigsman and his trophy – Image courtesy of Larry Shannon and Keith Powell


Gus Krigsman came from Sweden in 1920 to Nelson, B.C., where he started working in the woods and has continued the adventurous life of an outdoorsman ever since.

He went to Lumberton in 1923 and was employed there until 1941, when he moved to St. Mary’s Lake, 15 miles west of Marysville, to continue employment in the bush. 

Krigsman set a trap line on St. Mary’s Lake and started to trap beaver, mink, marten, lynx and wolverine in his spare time, gaining quite a reputation as a trapper and bear hunter.

In 1953, he shot a grizzly ranked twelfth in the world records. In the spring of 1954, another bear appeared around St. Mary’s Lake country. 

It crept at night and was never seen during the day. Tales were told of the bear breaking into cabins, leaving large tracks.

Each spring, from about April 15, it would start appearing around St. Mary’s Lake, and local hunters would begin hunting it until the end of the bear season.

Many people thought this bear was a fable in the district.

The Press reported Vic Swanson of Cranbrook making many trips to the lake in the past three years to get this bear. One hunter came from Vancouver to try his hand last year, as well as the local hunters.

Visitors and camera fans often went to the lake to try and see and get a photograph of this monster.

Every once in a while, reports would appear from Gray Creek to Marysville about his breaking into cabins, leaving big tracks and damage.

In the spring of 1957, Krigsman noticed a beaver disappearing by large tracks, so he knew the bear was out.

It seems a tender beaver was just the thing for a bear fresh out of hibernation because they can eat very little for several days. It was a case of smell being larger than appetite.

At three a.m., the hunter was awakened from a sound sleep by a strange noise. He jumped from his bed, went to the door and looked out.

The bear stood 10 feet away, trying to get into the shed.

Krigsman placed his foot against the door to hold it open and braced himself firmly, holding the flashlight with his left hand and rifle in his right hand.

He fired only one shot, and the bear took off around the shed. 

Krigsman did not realize that he had hit it behind the shoulder at the time, mortally wounding him. Thinking the bear had left for the hills, he went back to sleep. 

In the daytime, he went to see what had happened and found that the bear had been hit and had just gone around the shed into the bush a short ways, where he found him dead.

It was a male grizzly, brownish, about ten years old, and would go about 725 pounds in his prime.

He got help to load the bear into his truck and drove to Cranbrook, making a present of it to Vic Swanson, who had always wanted one for a rug.

It would be sixty days before measuring the skull for Boone and Crockett Club records, and it should come within the top 10.

Several bear hunters from Kimberley have said shooting a bear like that was brave. However – a note to amateur hunters – this is not recommended as a safe practice for a beginner.

Thus ends a true bear story that will take its rightful place with other famous bear stories of the East Kootenay.


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