Kayaker captures close-encounter with a swimming black bear

Black bear swimming

When Matthew Garrity took his kayak out on upstate New York’s Hemlock Lake earlier this month, he wasn’t expecting to run into a black bear.

After more than three hours of paddling, he and his friends were on shore stretching their legs when they spotted the giant black mass moving through the water.

“I’m looking around at the beautiful view and I saw something swimming across the lake, but I couldn’t identify what [it] was,” Garrity told Democrat and Chronicle.

His friends decided to stay put, but Garrity couldn’t contain his curiosity—he had to find out what it was.

Garrity told Mashable that although he didn’t capture it on camera, the bear did turn and acknowledge him as he paddled toward it.

“…he did turn his head and look directly at me for a split second, but he never stopped swimming towards the shore.”

The footage he managed to capture of the bear may be short, but it’s been viewed more than 400,000 times.

Hemlock Bear

Kayaking next to a swimming black bear on Hemlock lake 7-16-2016To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email

Posted by Matthew Garrity on Saturday, July 16, 2016

Some are surprised he got as close as he did, but Garrity said that his curiosity and adrenaline may have got the best of him.

“…once I realized it was a very large black bear, I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” he said.

In the background of the video, you can hear the whooshing of the water alongside loud breathing noises coming from the bear.

After less than 15 seconds, Garrity quickly put his camera away and paddled backwards, careful not to get too close or disturb the animal.

Most boaters will agree that it’s not every day that you run into a black bear on the lake. But according to Art Kirsch, senior wildlife biologist with the regional Department of Environmental Conservation, there’s been no shortage of bear encounters in western New York this year.

He told Democrat & Chronicle that they’ve received 108 bear calls this season, compared to the 42 they’d received at this time last year.