While out training a new hunting dog, Persson sensed a change in the animal's bark. Seconds later a brown bear came charging at him from the woods. “I screamed as much as I could and made myself very big,” Persson told Hela Hälsingland newspaper, in an interview which has gone viral over the past week.
The bear quickly veered off back into the trees, utterly surprised by Persson’s ferocity. Both Ralph and his wife Lena filmed the encounter which can be seen below and on the newspaper's website.
Persson has come across many bears over his years as a hunter and it’s this experience that helped save his life. But he didn't take the passive approach many advise. “To lie down and play dead? I do not believe in that,” he told the newspaper.
His trick was to be more adversarial, a tactic he rather surprisingly credits to birds.
“I have seen in the past how even cranes have chased bears by folding up their wings.”
Most bear experts agree that many more bears have seen humans in Sweden than humans have seen bears, so shy is the Scandinavian brown bear. They tend to steer clear of us. But Persson admits he may have got too close. “This time, I went over the limit. You have to have respect for the animals.”
There have been at least three bear attacks in northern Sweden in the last 12 months, although none have been fatal. Hundreds of brown bears are killed in Sweden every year as part of an annual cull.
Bear attacks on humans are relatively rare in Sweden, compared to the US, where on average two people a year die as a result of an encounter with a bear. By contrast, there have only been two fatalities caused by bear attacks over the last century in Sweden.