Building a Bear-Proof Suit

On August 4, 1984, Troy Hurtubise was hiking in central British Columbia when he came face-to-face with a grizzly bear. The bear knocked the 20-year-old sportsman down, his .22 rifle careening out of reach. Struggling to his feet, Troy drew his knife. He claims the bear seemed to contemplate its chances, before disappearing into the woods. A conservationist later told Troy that if any cubs had been present, he would have been mauled. To the grizzly, it was a forgettable encounter with a bothersome human. To Troy, it was a revelation. The Ontario native became obsessed with designing armor that could withstand a full-blown attack. Years after his encounter with the bear, Troy was watching the movie RoboCop when he was struck by the idea of body armor. He thought there should be a protective suit that would allow researchers to test so-called bear-proof sprays and safely observe grizzly behavior. He spent the next seven years — and $150,000 — constructing a series of suits he dubbed Ursus Mark. The 7’2” Mark VIII — a blend of air cushioning, titanium, and duct tape — successfully endured makeshift trials in which it was hit by a pickup truck and beaten by bikers armed with baseball bats. Unfortunately, the armor weighed as much as Troy himself: 150 pounds. Ultimately, his rematch with a grizzly never came to be. During filming, Troy was forced to abandon his efforts because the suit was too heavy and he was unable to remain upright on uneven ground.