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Bird on a bear photograph a stroke of luck for local mechanic

Swiss couple's love of the outdoors attracted them to the city four years ago
09 Serge Wolf pic northern harrier on black bear
Serge Wolf was ready with his camera last Tuesday when he spotted a northern harrier bird of prey getting up close and personal with a black bear sleeping on a hay bale in a field near Salmon Valley.

Serge Wolf has gotten into photography in a big way over the past decade and takes his camera with him most days when he’s making his calls as a heavy-duty mechanic.

As an outdoorsman, he’s always on the lookout for nature’s splendor and he was out on a service call on Johnson farm north of the city near Salmon Valley last Tuesday when he saw something he’d never seen before.

In a field stretched out on a large bale of hay was a black bear with its belly down on the warm mound, sleeping the afternoon away. Wolf got out his Sigma 150-600mm lens and took some high-quality photographs, but the best was yet to come.

Later in the day, Wolf noticed an adult male northern harrier hovering over the bear and was ready with his camera when the bird hovered over the bear’s back, not actually landing, but the angle of the shot makes it appear that it had its talons buried deep in the animal's fur and creates that illusion. The bear remained in a deep slumber the entire time and Wolf triggered the shutter to get a once-in-a-lifetime shot that will certainly be one of the highlights of his portfolio.

“During lunchtime when I actually had more time to take pictures one of the harriers was hunting nearby and I was joking to my co-worker that it would be a sweet picture to have the harrier on the bear and, lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened,” said Wolf.

“At the end of the day it was kind of a lucky shot because you had to be at the right angle. It turned out pretty funny. The entire time we were there the bear was munching clover in the field and he wasn’t bothered by the highway, which is pretty close. Quite a few people stopped and honked because of the bear and he couldn’t care less. He had no worries at all.”

Wolf went back to the same jobsite the following day and regretted not bringing his camera with him when he saw the same bear lying face-up with his back curved around the same hay bale.

 “I forgot the camera in the car at the shop.” he said. “I pasted it on Facebook and quite a few people saw that bear, so he’s probably there, more often than not. The guys that work there said it’s probably the cub from last year and the mom is still sticking around there. It’s probably a yearling.”

Wolf said he might consider entering the shot in a photo contest but the possibility of winning an award is not what motivated him to post it on social media.

“My goal with my pictures is to bring joy to people and to make people appreciate nature, even if it’s the little things,” he said. “Lots of folks take for granted what we have here.”

Wolf, 32, moved to Prince George four years ago with his wife Svenja from Switzerland. He speaks Swiss German, standard German, French and English. Having been raised in Switzerland, his accent when speaking English is almost imperceptible.

“I learned that from watching TV series and having gentle co-workers,” he laughed.

Wolf and his wife came to Western Canada several times on holidays before they decided to move to B.C. permanently and Prince George topped their list of destinations.

“Prince George is ideal because we wanted to start a family and it has pretty much everything we want, because we’re outdoorsy people and within half an hour you’re pretty much everywhere,” Wolf said. “It’s a small town and you have all the health infrastructure and the schooling system and pretty much everything you need. It was more than ideal for us.”

Wolf’s list of P.G. plusses also includes co-operative animal subjects.