When people think of fighting bears, generally they may think of lying down and covering their vitals while desperately hoping not to get mauled. Humans are not designed to out-muscle a bear, and doing so would most likely result in a mildly-irritated beast that would swat you like a fly.
However, that didn’t stop one Canadian man from pursuing his dream of creating a protective mech-like suit that could fend off bears, and the result is an incredible tale of innovation and putting everything on the line to prove those creations.
Troy Hurtubise was an inventor like no other. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1963, Hurtubise was an aspirational inventor of wild concepts far ahead of his time. Hurtubise came from a family of tinkerers, with his father an avid anthropologist and inventor himself. Something of a local legend, Troy had a resume full of Sci-Fi inventions, from a device that could turn objects transparent, to a protective ballistic suit that could be worn by soldiers. His Firepaste invention supposedly allowed anything it coated to become flame and heat-resistant, and could have had huge implications for spaceflight.
Hurtubise’s pride-and-joy, though, was the Ursus suit.
While walking in British Columbia, Hurtubise stumbled across a grizzly bear, whom he later called “Old Man”, according to Vice. The bear attacked him, and while Hurtubise managed to survive, the experience put him on an unexpected path – he became committed to understanding more about the animals through building a suit that could withstand their aggression. That’s right, he wanted to create a bear-fighting suit.
A man of conviction, Hurtubise got to work creating the first iteration of his Ursus suit. Cobbled together by duct tape, metals, and some in-house developed materials, the suit was created, and it was time to put it to the test.
Documented in a series of pretty concerning but absolutely fascinating clips in the Project Grizzly documentary (a favorite of Quentin Tarantino, seriously), Hurtubise strapped into the suit and put himself right in the firing line to test its strength. He threw himself down a steep hill, rolling and bouncing off the ground at startling speed, got hit by a baseball bat in places no man would wish to be hit, and even got struck by a truck through a brick wall.
Watch Troy get absolutely battered in his protective suit below.
The iteration of the suit seen in the documentary was the "Ursus Mark VI", and Hurtubise sought to put it to the test. Flying it by helicopter (much like an 80s version of Pacific Rim), the suit was dropped in the Rockies and he was ready to encounter his final boss, the bear. Unfortunately, a bear never showed.
In 1998, he won the Ig Nobel Prize for Safety Engineering for his Ursus suit.
Riding off of the documentary, Hurtubise became famous, appearing on talk shows as the star of the show, despite being unhappy with how he was portrayed. But as quickly as he rose, Hurtubise's fame faded and he became deeply unhappy.
“I’m the biggest failure you’ve ever looked at,” said Hurtubise, as reported by the National Post, citing how none of his inventions ever made it to market.
Troy Hurtubise died on June 17, 2018, in a road traffic accident. It is suspected that he deliberately swerved his vehicle into an oncoming truck, though it is impossible to ever know. In a stirring interview with The Spectator, Troy's wife said that his death means he is "not suffering anymore."
While the inventor may finally rest, the persistence and unwavering creativity he showed has inspired countless people, and will continue to for as long as we tell the story of the man who built mechs to fight bears.