They say a mother’s love knows no bounds, but things don’t always work out as expected. Just ask a protective mother bear who was walking across the Russian wilderness when she ran into a potentially life-threatening obstacle. And while wild animals like herself are used to the everyday hardships that come with living in the wild, this was one problem she couldn’t handle on her own.
When two fishermen saw the ordeal the mama bear and her cubs were going through, they immediately watched
This Russian Lake is Dangerously Chilly
Imagine standing at the edge of a frozen lake in late December. Doesn't sound too pleasant, does it? Pictured is Lake Vygozero, which is located in northern Russia near the Finnish border. During the harsh winter months, the surface of the lake turns to ice. It’s the main reason why most hikers avoid this area, but there are some living creatures that also make the area difficult to inhabit.
It’s Hazardous to All Life
Lake Vygozero is considered unsafe for all forms of life during the cold winter months because it reaches temperatures well below freezing. But while humans can simply head to warmer locations, animals don’t have that choice. So, when one particular mother bear found herself in danger, she was forced to make a heartbreaking decision and some onlookers saw her ordeal and reached out to help her.
Humans are Better at Handling the Cold
In general, people know how to stay out of potentially life-threatening situations. When the weather gets frightfully chilly, they wear heavy coats and slip into some Ugg boots or they stay at home and huddle next to the heater. But animals don’t have these luxuries when facing extreme weather conditions and finding food for them becomes even more difficult than it usually is during the winter months.
Animals Make Life-or-Death Decisions All the Time
A lot of times, animals are forced to make a life-or-death decision. That's exactly what happened to this poor mother bear, who realized her and her two cubs couldn't sit around waiting for springtime. Besides, this region was practically cold all the time. So, she knew she had to get away fast. As she was walking away, she found herself in the middle of a dangerous crossing.
The Cold Temperatures Affected Their Food Supply
Roaming around in the tundra where nothing seems to grow can be very frightening. And since the weather gets very cold, most fish swim deeper into the lake to stay warm. This makes it impossible for bears to find food just as they need it most. But she wasn't about to stay in this plot of frozen land and watch her babies perish. She knew what she had to do, even if it posed many risks.
The Other Side of the Lake Offered More Food
There was no food where the bears were standing, but the mother bear figured that there could be a bigger source of food on the other side of the lake. So, she made the difficult choice to cross the dangerous and freezing body of water with her cubs in tow. And it was a decision she probably later came to regret because it was about to cause her separation from her children.
It Was a Dangerous Animal Crossing
After throwing her cubs on her back, she made her way across the icy lake. This was a pretty bold move on her part considering that brown bears aren’t exactly the best swimmers in the world. But most wildlife has one thing in common, they are tremendously brave and will do anything imaginable to ensure their survival. But on this winter day, it would be a human that would help these bears survive.
The Lake Was Too Big of a Challenge
She quickly swam towards the land mass on the other side of the lake, but every stroke became more difficult as she started to succumb to the cold water and the powerful currents. Even the bear's think fur couldn't protect her from the freezing temperatures, and after being submerged in water, her fur started to really slow her down. At that point, she realized that she and her cubs might not survive.
She Overrode Her Maternal Instincts
Most people assume that mother bears would sacrifice their own lives for the sake of their cubs. Mothers of many species typically treat their babies better than themselves. But everyone has an off day, and this was hers. So, in a state of panic, the mother bear's survival instincts kicked in and she did something truly unthinkable for any parent. But this act of selfishness is exactly what soon caused her cubs' rescue.
The Mother Bear Chose Herself
The mother bear realized that the only way to get out of this situation alive was to do it alone. So, she shook the cubs off her back and threw them into the unforgiving waters. Then she started swimming towards the shoreline by herself, leaving her two cubs behind. Maybe she thought that the quickest way to get food would be to do it alone, or maybe she spotted a lone fish in the water across the lake, but no matter what happened, she abandoned her two children.
They Couldn’t Swim
The mother bear had assumed that her cubs would have tapped into their own survival instincts and learned to swim on their own. But she was wrong and as she made it to the other side, her cubs were fighting a losing battle against the cold water. They might have had a chance to stay afloat if they were in the warm winter months of summer, but the frigid temperatures made the cubs scared and shaky.
The Cubs Were in Uncharted Water
The cubs had grown accustomed to their mother always being there for them, and now they were forced to fend for themselves on a surface they weren’t familiar with. And each second that passed brought them that much closer to the end. They weren't well accustomed with swimming, so the cubs flailed in terror as they tried to fight the freezing currents that were battering them from side to side.
The Currents Were Too Strong
The currents were so strong that the cubs were being tossed around like two stuffed bears inside a laundromat washer. And eventually, the currents started pushing them further and further away from the shore. But their mother didn’t seem the least bit concerned because she had her own survival to worry about. And the cubs, lost and scared, looked for any possible way out of their situation.
The Cubs Struggled
The cubs kept on paddling just to keep themselves from drowning, but their muscles were getting tired. It was only a matter of time before they started to submerge into the waves and they weren’t sure if there was anything they could use to help them stay afloat. Their survival instincts had never been tested like this before, and like any other creature in their situation, they had no idea what to do next.
They Were Being Pushed Further Away
The currents continued to push the cubs away from either end of the shore that they had always called home and of course, farther away from their mother. This undoubtedly caused the cubs to panic since they had always counted on their mother in times of need and now they were alone and scared. But why had she forsaken them? Did the mama bear have a sudden and intense desire to be alone?
Their Course Was Unpredictable
The cubs were eventually pulled downstream, and there was nothing they could do to alter their unpredictable course... or so it seemed. The rough waves created currents that were impossible to swim against, so all they could do was ride the waves to a new destination. But all hope was not lost. There was something, or rather someone, else on the lake who saw their struggle. But could they help?
They Were Headed Towards the Object
There was an object of some kind in the water with the bears, and it was making a lot of noise. There was also someone living on it. This alarmed the cubs because the current was pulling them towards the unknown object and they didn’t know if it posed a bigger threat to them than the freezing waters. But the bears didn't know that the unidentified mass in the water was really a boat that could rescue them.
Two Fishermen Noticed the Cubs
The object turned out to be a fishing boat and onboard were two fishermen who caught sight of the animals in distress. Although the cubs were young, they were well aware that humans could pose a threat to them, especially if these fishermen were hunters as well. But the cubs were helpless either way so they made their way closer to the ship, which is ultimately what caught the attention of the fishermen.
They Swam Towards the Boat
The cubs had no idea what a boat was. From their perspective, this floating object represented hope. It could possibly be a land mass or there could be food on board that could keep them alive. They thought that maybe if they swam fast enough they could climb on it. So, they mustered up what little strength they had left and headed towards the boat. And the cubs' adrenaline improved their whole situation.
They Utilized the Water's Currents
With their target in sight, the cubs used the current to help them paddle closer towards the boat. It now seemed lucky that the cubs were sent off course, because it led them closer to other living beings who could help them out of the water. Meanwhile, the fishermen saw the cubs heading towards them and had no idea what to do or whether they should even help the animals.
The Fishermen Misunderstood the Cubs’ Intentions
Despite the frigid waters, the fishermen were hopeful that they would be able to cash a few fish that day. But they knew that bears ate fish and were initially concerned that these cubs would scare the fish away. Then it became obvious to them that the cubs didn’t care about the fish and they didn't usually swim in these deep waters. So the fishermen did something unusual and they found a way to help the bears out.
The Cubs Needed Help
As the cubs continued to head towards the boat at an alarming pace, the fishermen realized that the two young bears were scared for their lives. The creatures were also gasping to breathe and seemed to be moments away from drowning. That’s when they realized they had to help the innocent creatures, who weren't actually trying to catch all of the fish in the water for themselves..
The Men Were Concerned for Mother Bear
The fishermen were more than willing to help the cubs out, but they did have one obvious concern, which was the mother bear on the other side of the lake. Would she recognize that they were trying to help her cubs or would she see them as a threat and attack them when they came to shore? Although she was on the other side of the water past the rough currents, the fishermen knew that adult bears could be powerful swimmers.
They Didn’t Want Her to Get the Wrong Idea
Mother bears are naturally quite protective of their babies. Then again, the fishermen didn’t know that the bear had abandoned her young earlier which is why they were in this predicament. But the men felt that they needed to wait for some sort of signal from one of the bears before they started lifting the cubs into their boat. They needed to know that they would be safe if they helped out the cubs.
They Had to Wait for the Right Moment
The fishermen saw that the mother bear was pacing on dry land and she seemed to be keeping an eye on her cubs. Although her mission to find food resulted in her leaving her cubs behind, she obviously still wanted to make sure that they would be alright. So, the fishermen decided to wait for the exact moment that the mama bear looked away before they sprung into action.
They Didn’t Know How the Cubs Would React
As if being concerned for the mother bear’s proximity to shore wasn’t difficult enough, the fishermen also had to contend with the possibility of how the cubs would react to two humans. Would they be frightened or aggressive? They were obviously in need of help, but some animals are experts at pretending to be in danger to trick unsuspecting humans before they prove that they were able-bodied all along and attack.
They Decided to Help the Cubs Anyway
After much debate, the fishermen decided to help the scared cubs and the first step to rescuing them was to get the boat a little closer to the cubs. But they had to be careful to slow down their speed when they neared the animals or they would risk smashing their boat into the cubs and injuring them. Luckily, the cubs weren't too scared by the movement of the boat and the fishermen soon reached their side.
The Cubs Latched On for Dear Life
The cubs didn’t waste much time once the boat reached them. As soon as they got their paws on the edge of the boat, they started climbing on board like pirates. But they weren’t looking for gold, and they didn't want to hurt the men who were already ob board. They simply wanted to live. Unfortunately, they were too weak. Would they get the help they needed? And would they get it in time?
The Cubs Needed the Humans
Initially, it seemed like the cubs would be able to pull themselves up on the boat without any help from anyone. But they were so weak from fighting the current that they found themselves struggling to get onboard and out of the water. The small cubs probably had no experience climbing anything but trees, so this situation was much different than what they were used to in the past.
The Men Used a Net to Help the Cubs
The fishermen had plenty of items on their fishing boat so they chose a fishing net to help the first bear climb on board. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the fishing net didn’t work so well because the small holes provided too much empty space for the bears paws to go through. They needed to find something more substantial for the bears to grab hold of, and luckily, the bears had an idea in mind.
The Cubs Used Their Powerful Jaws
The first cub came to the conclusion that its paws weren’t going to get him into the boat any faster. His jaw, however, could. It’s one of the most powerful tools a bear can use. Despite being young, the cubs' survival instincts kicked in so they started using their jaws to latch on to the boat, giving the rest of their bodies a much needed break from treading ice cold water for so long.
Their Arms and Legs Caught a Break
They barely had any strength left in their arms but their jaws still had some energy left. So, they gave their limbs a break and the cubs were able to keep themselves from drowning by biting firmly onto the boat. But would their bites be strong enough to get them onboard? Or would they be so strong that they caused damage to the only vessel able to get them out of the water?
The Cub and Human Saw Eye to Eye
Even as they struggled, one of the fishermen managed to help one of the cubs. And as this happened, the helpless creature stared right into his eyes. In that moment, the man felt as though the cub was thanking him for lending a hand. And it was obvious to see that even in the video that the other fisherman captured, the bears were grateful to the humans for their kind deed.
They Were Willing to Accept the Help
Although initially reluctant to accept help from humans, the cubs quickly realized that the men only wanted to help the bears out of the water. And it’s not like they had any other choice but to allow them to help! The alternative would have been to just drown or attempt to swim back to land, which didn't seem to be possible in that moment. And the fishermen knew exactly how the bears felt from their years of experience on the water.
The Fishermen Tried the Net One More Time
Now that the cubs were using their jaws to hang on, the fishermen decided to try the fishing net that was attached to a large handle to see if it would help. It was a gentle push in the right direction. But would it work? The bears weighed a lot more than they might seem to, and even though the fishermen were strong, they didn't know if their equipment could hold the weight of the bears.
They Rescued the Second Cub
Once the first cub was aboard, the fishermen used the fishing net to help the second cub just like they did with his sibling and it worked. But the cubs were frantically gasping for air and the fishermen weren't sure why. Were they okay? Or had the cubs accidentally swallowed too much water, hurting their lungs? There was also a chance that the freezing temperatures of the water could have hurt the bears internally.
The Fishermen Were a Little Scared
They had successfully rescued the cubs, but after the euphoria of the situation wore off, the fishermen started to worry. The reality of the situation was that they were now two men on a boat with just as many bears, who despite their size had tremendous power in their teeth and paws. They might have been tiny, but they were still wild bears on a small boat with two humans. So, the fishermen tried to maintain a respectable distance.
They Couldn’t Keep the Cubs
The cubs were shivering as a result of the terrible ordeal they endured and also the freezing temperatures of the water they were just in. So, the fishermen knew that at this moment, the bears weren’t much of a threat, but they couldn’t exactly keep the cubs, either. Their next plan was to get the animals to safety and back on dry land, where they could hopefully be reunited with their mother.
The Animals Were in Shock
The cubs were alive and didn’t seem injured, but they had been through a horrible ordeal. Not only had their mother abandoned them in the middle of a freezing lake, but they almost drowned. The fishermen wondered if they should return the bears to their mother at all, because she had just abandoned the cubs without any rhyme or reason, leaving them behind in cold and cruel waters that could have caused their end.
The Fishermen Needed a Better Solution
Now that the cubs were safe, the fishermen needed to figure out what to do with them. After all, these were wild animals that belonged in the wilderness. And since they were young, they still needed their mother. So, the fishermen figured that they had to do something to reunite the cubs with their parent, even though she had left them behind. The mother was probably hoping to bring food back for the bears who she could no longer carry with her.
They Did Some Brainstorming
The fishermen had done all that they possibly could for the cubs and could no longer help them. They hardly had enough food on board for two people, so they didn't want to offer the cubs any food for fear that they themselves would go hungry before their journey was over. So they brainstormed ideas to figure out how they could put the adorable cubs back on track before they tried crossing the lake.
They Looked for a Safe Place to Dock
The fishermen drove their boat around the lake looking for the area of land in Lake Vygozero where the cubs’ mother was at. They knew this was risky since the mother could easily reject her young and attack them in the process. But their gut instinct told them that the mother bear would be overjoyed to see them. After all, she was in a dangerous situation herself, and they didn't know why she left her young behind.
The Mother Bear Was a Potential Threat
The fishermen knew what they had to do, but they were also concerned that the mother bear’s maternal instincts would kick in if they got too close to her. If she saw the fishermen with her cubs, she would try to attack them and put her cubs in another dangerous situation. Regardless, they decided to try to relocate the cubs, even if that meant not reuniting them with their mother immediately.
They Went Looking for Mother Bear
When the fisherman arrived on the landmass, they got off their boat, took a look around, and didn’t initially see the mother bear. At that moment, she was probably still more concerned with finding food for herself than looking out for her two young cubs. But the fishermen were cautious because she could appear from behind a tree at any minute and strike at them.
They Left the Cubs on Dry Land
Leaving the cubs behind on the island felt like leaving their own kids behind, but the fishermen decided that this was for the best. So they picked the cubs up and placed them on the island one after the other, carefully letting them find their footing on dry land. Unfortunately, the cubs didn’t want to let go of the humans, and the feeling was mutual. But the cubs eventually wandered off in search of their mother.
They Recorded the Experience on Camera
The fishermen had recorded their experience with the cubs on camera to share with others. They figured some people might judge the mother bear for abandoning her young, but this behavior is quite common for animals who are stuck in a life or death situation. It's easy to judge the mother bear for her actions, but it's much harder to imagine her situation of looking for some food to keep her family alive during a harsh winter.
It’s Part of a Wild Animal’s Survival Instincts
Some mother bears abandon their young because they feel that the odds of survival increase for everyone. The mama bear in question might have been looking for enough food to take back to her cubs so they all could survive. Other times, animals may even eat their young if there isn’t enough food to go around or if the young gets sick or is deformed with no reasonable means to save them.
Bear Fathers Are No Better Than the Mothers
Bear fathers and are just as likely to harm one of their cubs or even someone else’s cubs in order to survive. In fact, it’s more likely that they’ll do this without even needing a reason. This means that a cub’s only odds of survival are to stay healthy and stick with their mother as she is less likely to harm them unless absolutely necessary. And in this case, the bears were all very hungry and just looking for a way to survive the cold.
Mother Bears Do Love Their Cubs
Despite the grim tactics some mother bears will take like harming their. young or abandoning them in the water, they do care for them in most cases. For example, they’ll nurse them when they’re very young and eventually train them to hunt for food. And they’ll attack anyone who tries to hurt their cub, which is exactly why the fishermen were so afraid to be seen with her cubs in tow.
Brown Bears Are Pros at Adapting to Different Climates
The weather in Lake Vygozero is harsh for most humans and wild animals, but brown bears like the mother bear and her cubs are great at adapting to climate changes. And as painful as it might be for some to imagine a mother abandoning her young, those cubs will hone in on their natural instincts to survive on their own and will probably have their own cubs in due time, continuing the circle of life.