What was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway quickly turned into a rescue mission involving a fisherman and baby bear.
“I’ve had a lot of emotional things happen in my life including the birth of my son and delivering an American flag to the first football game at Soldier Field during 9/11, but saving this bear tops that,” said Mike Polocz, owner of H20s Pros.
Polocz, along with his son Dustin Klepacki, and friend Charlie Mettile, went trout fishing along the upper Kenai River in Alaska Saturday when he noticed a mother bear and her two cubs searching for salmon in the river.
“There was no one else on the river but us three and the mother bear and her two cubs,” Polocz said. “Then we saw the mother and one of her cubs head towards the woods and we were wondering where the other was.”
The cinnamon colored 50-pound bear was stuck in a whirlpool and was screeching blood curdling cries, he said.
“There was no way we were going to let him drown, and the serendipitous thing about it was if we were five minutes later the bear would’ve been dead,” Polocz said. “It was in such distress and was looking at me in the eyes, and was practically saying save me from this water. I still dream about its cries at night.”
Polocz said the bear was trying to grab the net and climb into the boat, but couldn’t because of the strong water currents. The bear was never fully submerged under water, but was instead stuck circling inside the whirlpool.
“We were like the three stooges in that boat,” he said. “We were scrambling to use the net to push the bear to safety. We kept thinking if the bear climbs into the boat we are going to be dead meat, because the mother will not be happy, so let’s try and push it to freedom.”
With one final jab of the net, Polocz was able to push the bear back to the shore where its mother was waiting. He said the bear went into the woods, let out a couple of cries for its mother and retreated into the woods.
The rescue incident was caught on Mettile’s iPhone, but Polocz said it should have been caught on his telescopic pole camera attached to the back of his boat.
“My son will not be happy I’m telling you this story, but we should have all of the footage of the rescue,” he said. “My son usually is in charge of turning on the camera, but when we finally saved the bear, he yelled ‘And it’s all on the GoPro, but it’s not on.’”