Hobby photographer Peeter Karask found himself staring down a bear in Lääniste, Tarty County early on Saturday morning.
“Help, just now, in the early hours at 4.12 a.m. in Lääniste (where I was born) the most dangerous moment of my life occurred! I was attacked by a bear! I’m trying to stay calm, but my hands are shaking, and my heart is still beating like crazy. My throat is so sore, and I’ve lost my voice because I was yelling at the top of my lungs, waving my arms and a great lens around, but it just kept coming toward me,” Karask wrote on Facebook right after the incident.
“My heart sunk, and I thought this is where I would lie,” the photographer admitted. “At the moment, I’m sitting in my car, shaking and thinking about what happened just a few minutes ago and how they might have been the last minutes of my life. This was no longer an experience; for the first time in my life, I felt mortal fear…”
Karask added that while he has never believed in God, he wanted to say “Thank God!” after his run-in with the bear.
The photographer later told Postimees he had gone to the woods before sunrise to take pictures of an owl. Karask moved at a crawl so as not to frighten the bird, while he suddenly heard a loud noise in nearby bushes.
“At first, I thought it would be a wild board with its family, but it turned out to be a bear. It was quite close and came running toward me at first sight,” he recalled.
Karask jumped onto a tree stump and started waving his arms in hopes of appearing bigger. The bear stopped a few meters short of his position, got up on its hind legs and roared.
“That is when I imagined being torn to pieces. I do not remember those few seconds because I was yelling, jumping, and waving my arms with everything I had, with tears running down my cheeks at the same time,” Karask wrote in social media.
Despite the critical situation, Karask managed to take some photos of the animal. The bear fell back only to circle around and run toward the man two more times.
“My efforts to frighten the bear were repeated with even more vigor, and the bear decided to fall back and let me live. The bear retreated the same way it had entered the clearing, and I made for the car as fast I could,” Karask wrote.
“I do not know whether it had cubs in those bushes or was simply startled as it did not hear me approach. Animals tend to attack when taken by surprise,” the photographer said. He added that the bear was so close to him that a single wrong move could have easily been his last.
“I was seriously afraid for my life, but time heals all wounds. This enlightening experience will make me more observant and perhaps also cautious,” Karask said, describing the day as his second birthday.
“All I can say is that if you move through the woods, always assess the situation and try to err on the side of caution,” the man added.