Troy Hurtubise was hiking in British Columbia in 1984 when he encountered the bear that changed his life forever.
Staring suddenly into the face of an irritable grizzly, the then 20-year-old Ontarian pulled a .22 semiautomatic rifle to defend himself, but the grizzly knocked him—and the rifle—away like a toothpick. Clambering to his feet, Hurtubise grabbed a knife from his belt.
The bear fled. Had cubs been present, a conservationist told Hurtubise later, it’s likely he would have been mauled.
Years later, watching the 1987 blockbuster Robocop, Hurtubise realized his true calling: to design a suit of armour that could withstand the strongest of all bear attacks. He wanted to build a suit researchers could wear in the field for protection.
And so began a seven-year, $150,000 suit development process documented by the 1996 film Project Grizzly. (Reportedly a favourite of Quentin Tarantino, the Peter Lynch film is one of the most successful Canadian documentaries ever made.)
“Do you know why I never broke a bone? Do you know why I’ve never sustained so much as a concussion? Because I know what I’m doing! People, this isn’t a big reach. I don’t want to get hurt,” said Hurtubise in a VICE documentary in 2012.
Hurtubise’s sixth suit was made of titanium, air cushioning and duct tape and weighed almost 150 pounds (other versions of the suit were made with galvanized steel, chainmail, liquid rubber and high-tech plastic). The 7'2" suit had 20 per cent flexibility and could bear* the force of a 50 km/hr pickup truck. But the suit was too heavy for Hurtubise to keep his footing, and the project was abandoned before Project Grizzly finished filming.
The 52-year-old inventor is picking up where he left off.
"I have to know whether the suit will hold,” said Hurtubise in an interview with The Hamilton Spectator . “It's one of the curiosity things. We tested the suit a lot of ways, but never went against the grizzly."
Hurtubise is currently working on the eighth version of his bear suit in a workshop in North Bay, Ontario and hopes to crowdfund $700,000 to make Project Grizzly II. So far, $70 have been raised.
Click the links below to watch more Troy Hurtubise videos:
- Project Grizzly, the feature length documentary
- Indestructible, the 2012 three-part documentary series by VICE: Part I, Part II and Part III
- Troy Hurtubise videos on YouTube
- Hurtubise talking about Project Grizzly II
*Forgive the pun. We couldn’t resist