Meet Mary Maley, the woman behind the viral kayak bear video

The YouTube video of a bear attacking a woman’s kayak near Wrangell has nearly 4 million views. Mary Maley was that woman, and she was on day five of what she was expecting to be a 20-day trip.

She pulled her kayak ashore 22-miles southeast of Wrangell to eat lunch and hike.

“And as I was eating lunch I heard something outside, so I went outside and the bear was eating my kayak. So, I immediately tried to make loud noises,” Maley said.

When the bear didn’t back off, Maley grabbed her pepper spray and her camera, which is where the video begins.

“Thanks for leaving my kayak alone bear. I’m going to pepper spray you in the face,” she said.

Maley thought she might email the video to the manufacturer of her kayak, Delta. But the video was too big, so, using the wireless internet at the Wrangell library, she uploaded the video to YouTube, and shared the link on Facebook.

She’s not visible in the video, but her stressed voice throughout makes it memorable.

“Bear, you are breaking my kayak. You are breaking my kayak why are you breaking my kayak?!” she hollers in the video. “Why are you doing that? Bear please stop. Please stop bear. It’s the end of September you are supposed to be asleep. Why are you here?!”

kayak bear screen grab
Mary Maley uses bear spray in this still from her video of a black bear in Berg Bay that attacked her kayak.

Maley says that’s not her regular voice. Her pitch goes up when she’s stressed. She says she was trying to talk loudly, so the bear might leave. She also has some professional experience being loud.

“I mean, I’m not deaf, so I realize it’s pretty funny to listen to,” she said. “I’m kind of famous as a tour guide for being sort of loud, yelling over engines and having the ability to do that on tour. This past summer, I was Little Nell in ‘The Fish Pirate’s Daughter,’ the Ketchikan production, and that’s her whole shtick. That she’s really high pitched and ridiculous and I was obviously perfect for that character. ”

Maley, talking from her family home in West Virginia, has remained lighthearted about the whole experience despite some astonishing online comments.

“It’s crazy to read that somebody wishes a bear would have eaten you,” she said. “For me to read that and be like, ‘What in the world?’ To try to put myself in the place of that person and try to understand what their daily lives must be like that they are capable of saying something like that to an anonymous person on the internet who just had something really bad happen to her.”

She has also received support, including from a friend who set up a campaign and raised over $1,000 for repairs. She says it’s not enough to replace the kayak, which is worth about four times that. Besides losing an expensive piece of sporting equipment, Maley says the biggest disappointment was not seeing the LeConte Glacier or paddling around the Stikine River because her trip was cut short.

“The trip itself was an exploration of the beautiful landscape that drew me there initially but the reaction from the people of Wrangell and the people of Ketchikan is really why I chose to stay there and come back year after year,” she said.

After arriving in Wrangell, Maley was offered a couch to sleep on and workspace to repair her kayak. She was able to patch the gashes, but won’t be relying on it for more than a day trip.

Maley will spend the winter mushing dogs in Wyoming and be back in Ketchikan next summer, where she hopes to give the 200-mile paddle another try.

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