Have you ever got so caught up in a wildlife documentary that you’ve actually started to feel an attachment towards the animals and, consequently, a real concern with regard to their fate? This article is guaranteed to make you feel that way. Here is a story about confronting adversity, the power of nature, and the kindness of strangers.
Read on to learn more about the heroic tale of a mother bear and her two cubs, defying all odds, to swim across a freezing lake in Russia. It didn’t go quite as planned, however. Read on to discover what happened.
01. A Tale of Loss, and Love
This story will certainly warm your hearts. It is a story of sacrifice and hope, fear and loss. It is about the unspoken bond of a loving family and two different species uniting with the ultimate goal of saving lives.
After a mother bear left her cubs for dead in the middle of a bitterly cold lake, the cubs were in desperate need of a hero to come and save them. Fortunately, there happened to be some fishermen nearby, who discovered them and, consequently, decided to embark on a rescue mission – but did they succeed?
02. An Unforgiving Lake
The tale begins on a freshwater lake known as Lake Vygozero, in the northwestern region of Russia. This body of water is so unbelievably cold, that temperatures have been known to reach as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit, or -20 degrees Celsius (safe to say that this lake is not a major water-skiing destination!)
Given the lake’s large size and freezing temperatures, it is far too cold for humans and most other wildlife (apart from fish!) to swim in. It is impossible to make it from one side to the other without getting a bitter chill. With this in mind – continue reading to find out what happens to the baby bears that were stranded in this unbearably cold lake.
03. Somewhere to Get to
It is unclear and we will never know why it was that the mother bear decided to cross these waters with her newborn cubs. However, the maternal instinct is powerful in most species, especially bears.
We wonder if it was this that motivated her to keep going, after taking the dangerously risky decision to jump into the bitterly cold water beneath her. There is no doubt that she was a courageous mama bear, however, it was this courage that ultimately put her two little ones in danger. They were not quite as tough as she might have thought.
04. A Terrible Decision
Unfortunately, the decision to jump into the lake with her two cubs was not a wise one. With the babies clinging onto her for dear life, while she tried her very hardest to power on, her strength was just not enough in the freezing temperature.
They began their journey across the lake, but after some time, it became all too clear that she wouldn’t be able to keep going whilst holding the weight of her two babies and that the cubs just couldn’t keep up. The cubs eventually ended up far out in the lake’s centre, scrambling for dear life with no idea where to go from there.
05. Abandoned by Their Own Mother
At this point, this story takes a painful turn. Mother bears are considered to be selfless animals, willing to sacrifice themselves to protect their young when their maternal instincts kick in. This, however, was not the case for this particular mother bear.
Regardless of her initial intentions, she ultimately ditched her cubs and started to swim away, leaving them helpless in the water. This decision might come as a surprise to wildlife observers, however, when it’s a question of life and death in the wild, survival instincts tend to override maternal ones, as was the case with this mama bear.
06. The Current Was Too Strong
We have to give her some credit though, as the lake had a very powerful undercurrent, which was already incredibly difficult to swim in. She did try, but ultimately after battling the current with her babies on her back, she found herself being torn apart from her cubs.
After being separated, she tried to save herself, perhaps in the hope that her cubs could make it on their own. After swimming for some time, the mother bear eventually made it safely to land. Sadly, without her baby cubs.
07. Somebody Help!
So now we find the bear cubs all alone in the freezing lake, exhausted, and desperate. How will they survive now that their mother – their protector – has abandoned them? With nobody even close to saving them, their fate was not looking good.
The odds were not at all in their favour, it was the middle of winter. The waters were freezing and the current deadly. In addition, bears are not the greatest swimmers, since they don’t have much experience in this area.
08. Holding on for Dear Life
This picture is painful to witness. Can you imagine what this would be like for these baby cubs? Terror and panic racing through their minds, while the freezing cold water rushed over them? Within minutes of being in the lake, they were fighting for their lives.
Treading water in the face of death would be enough for any living being to be absolutely terrified. Whoever took this photograph must have thought that they were capturing the end of the lives of these cubs.
09. A Rescue on the Horizon?
When all seemed hopeless for these little cubs, a boat miraculously appeared on the horizon. The reality instantly became clear to the fishermen on board – it would be a race against the clock to save these scared little ones from drowning.
The fishermen were well acquainted with the lake and knew something was wrong. With no mama bear in sight, they knew that they had to do something to help rescue the helpless bears. Could they do it?
10. Tired Little Ones
As the boat got closer to the cubs, the disastrous situation became clear. The babies were incredibly exhausted, struggling to keep their heads above water. The crew did not know how to safely remove them from the water.
Ironically, instead of catching fish, they were now hoping to catch themselves two little bear cubs and hopefully bring them to safety, but this was no mean feat. The cubs were scared of the boat and were beginning to panic even more.
11. An Observer Close By
Though the mother bear had left the babies unattended in the water, she was still very close by, watching the scene unfold. Since this mother was a rather large bear, the fishermen were unsure as to whether or not to proceed, fearing for their own safety.
They feared that the mother might follow her maternal instinct and try to intervene by climbing aboard their vessel. Even though time was quickly running out, they had to wait for the mother to be a safer distance away.
12. Creating a Plan
As they waited, the fishermen decided to work out a plan to get the babies out of the water. What was the best way to handle this situation, ensuring that they put themselves and the cubs in the least amount of danger possible?
They had to approach the situation with caution and in a way which meant that the cubs would not get frightened further. At this point, anything could happen. While they were only babies, they were still wild bears.
13. Get It On Camera
It is thanks to modern technology that we have been able to get access to a once-in-a-lifetime rescue mission. The fishermen claimed that they took some pictures because they were sure that their friends wouldn’t believe them!
The fishermen themselves couldn’t quite believe what they had come across. What had started out as a casual winter fishing outing, had turned into an extremely tense rescue mission. They filmed the entire interaction between the bears and the boat. Soon after, one of the bear cubs started to try and climb onto the boat on his own, reaching up with his paws.
14. Needing Some Assistance
The ledge of the boat was much too high for the little one, and try as he may, he just couldn’t make it onto the boat himself, especially in his weakened state from treading water so long.
The fishermen began to set their plan into motion. As a working fishing boat, they had several nets and tools and the most logical option was to use one of them to grab hold of the bear.
15. The Right Kind of Plan
As the soaking wet and frantic baby cub desperately tried to climb aboard, the crew sprung into action. One of the fishermen ran to get the fishing gear, so that the cubs could latch onto it and he could bring them on-board.
Bears have incredibly sharp teeth and powerful mouth-gripping abilities. So, instead of pulling the cub onto the boat, the plan was to let the cub use his mouth as leverage to pull himself up onto the vessel.
16. Did It Work?
At first, it seemed like the plan would work, however, the bear was still a little too far from the boat landing to be able to pull his whole body up. The crew was worried that the large net might just scare the bear, even more.
Despite the fishermen’s concerns about putting themselves at risk by physically pulling the bear up, they couldn’t just sit back and watch. It was a matter of life and death, and they decided that they had no choice but to intervene.
17. Trust and Trust Some More
If the fishermen reached too far over the edge they risked being pulled down by the bear, falling into the freezing water, or worse – being attacked and maimed. Of course, they couldn’t forget about the giant mama bear, watching from the sidelines.
So, what could they do? They decided to throw caution to the wind and put their trust in the bear cubs, making the, perhaps rogue, decision to work with them to ensure that the rescue mission went smoothly. The fishermen prayed that no one would get hurt.
A few days after the incident, many of the crew of the boat were quoted as saying that during the rescue, it was as if they had developed a deep, unspoken connection with the bear cub.
Something about locking gazes with the helpless bear created some form of connection between them and the vulnerable little bear. This is what compelled the fishermen to take the risk, reach down, and do all they could to save the bear cub.
19. A Bright Idea
And so another plan was put into action. Although it seems simple in retrospect, at the time, with high stakes and adrenaline pumping, it is understandable that they didn’t try this sooner.
They carefully used their fishing nets to try to scoop the bear out of the water – just like they would have done with regular fish, the trick was to ensure that the cub didn’t panic and stayed very still.
20. Will it Work?
The biggest concern about this plan was the fact that the fishing nets were not designed to hold heavy baby bears. Despite this, they were willing to risk breaking the net if it gave them a chance to save the cubs, so they continued on with their plan.
Tossing the net into the ocean, they started with the first cub. Using the same method as they would for catching fish, they tried to reel it in with their own hands. Time was running out and, all the while, the cub was getting more tired.
21. Heavy Lifting
The first cub was caught in the net, and brought closer and closer until they eventually got it onto the boat! This was just the beginning, as they had to make sure the bears would not get injured in the process.
They also had to ensure that the cubs wouldn’t decide to use what little strength they had left to attack the fishermen. Even though the fishermen had good intentions, the scared cubs might not realise that and attack them out of fear.
22. Calming the Cubs
They expected the wet and wild bear cub to either damage the boat or harm its helpers, the minute it got out of the water… but at that point, they had to take the risk. Because if not, the bear cub would surely lose its life.
Someone suggested that they try to calm the bear down before pulling it into the boat, but since they were just fishermen, with no prior experience in dealing with bears or land mammals, no one had any idea how to achieve this.
23. Pull and Pull and Pull
The fishermen soon realised just how heavy a baby cub was. They were extremely grateful that these cubs were still young – if it had been the mama bear stuck in the water, it would have been an entirely different story!
Did you know that a fully grown bear can weigh up to 1,300 pounds?! That’s a whole lot of bear. There is no way that the fishermen could have supported one using just their fishing net. While they were only cubs, they were even heavier than they usually would be , because of their wet fur.
24. Just A Little Further
It’s a good thing that these fishermen were used to dealing with tough conditions and situations because pulling the fishing net with the first cub in it was a real struggle. They had to really dig deep, both mentally and physically, to help this animal.
After a good deal of time spent gently pulling and tugging, the cub eventually got close enough to the boat to climb onboard. Thankfully, rather than attack, he simply climbed onto the boat. The situation was finally starting to look up.
25. Welcome Aboard
In the end, it was a success! They managed to get the first cub on the vessel, but it wasn’t time to celebrate yet. They still had another cub to save and time was running out. The second cub was treading water for the duration of the first rescue.
With their first rescue a success, they began the task of assisting the next cub. This, however, would be a greater challenge than the first, since the second bear was further away from the boat than the first, so the fishermen had to try and get close enough to reach him, before helping him onto the boat.
26. Quiet Confidence
Since they had successfully rescued the first cub, the fishermen were feeling good about their chances of being able to save this one too, but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy.
But thankfully, with their tried and tested method of extraction using the fishing net, the process seemed to go a lot more smoothly than it had the first time, to everyone’s relief. The second cub was picked up and pulled in.
27. Brother Bears Reunited
After mustering the strength to continue pulling, the fishermen managed to get this little guy on the boat as well. Now the fishermen felt just as tired as the bears after all of that hard work!
With the two bear cubs safely on the boat, there was a sense of euphoria on the boat. What was supposed to be just an average workday had been turned completely upside down. The fishermen were now faced with the question of what to do next.
The fishermen could finally take a moment to celebrate – a few high fives and cheers were shared between them. With the two cubs saved, they could breathe and prepare themselves for their next move.
We’re truly impressed with the fishermen’s ability to persevere and selflessly save these little ones. The next move was to return the bear cubs to the mother, but this would not be without its own risks.
29. Not at all Happy
Though the cubs were safe from the imminent danger of drowning, they weren’t in the best shape. They were exhausted, cold, and wet. They were also confused by their totally new surroundings.
The poor little things were shaking, from a combination of both fear and cold. This was likely the first contact they had ever had with humans. Cowering in the corner, these cubs were really missing their mother.
30. Fallen for Them
The fishermen really felt as though they had formed a bond with these little ones. The life-threatening situation, on both sides, had brought man and bear together. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if, seeing the bears cold, alone, and in need of some comfort, the fishermen had wanted to keep them.
However, they also knew that their mum would be close by, waiting to be reunited with her babies. At this point they knew that the most sensible option would be, not to bring the cubs with them, but to reunite them with their mother.
31. Where to Take Them
They now needed to find out where it was that the mother bear had gone, so that they could bring them to her. But, after all the chaos of saving the cubs, none of them seemed to remember exactly where that was.
They searched for the particular spot on land where they had seen the mother bear taking refuge. After some time, one of the fishermen finally found it. They made their way to the shore, in the hope that the mother bear would still be there.
32. Another Risky Move
This was the moment where everything would come together – they hoped that the bears would be too focused on reuniting to cause them any harm. As the fishermen approached the shore, they were unsure of how the cubs and the mother bear would react.
Would she run at the boat and tear the men apart? Would the cubs trample the men to get to their mother? They had to be brave and do the right thing, so as they got closer, they braced themselves for whatever might happen.
33. Waiting Game
It was a little bit of an anti-climax, however, as the mother bear didn’t arrive when the men landed. They had a feeling she would be close by – perhaps watching from behind the trees to see what the men would do.
They knew the next step though was to let the cubs go and their mother’s scent would lead them to her. The fishermen carried the tired and weak cubs onto the land to deliver them to safety. They waited for a while, but there was no movement.
34. On the Shore
The fishermen were not sure what to do now. It didn’t seem as if she was going to come out and meet her cubs, and they feared that the little cubs wouldn’t make it on their own in the cold and harsh weather.
The fishermen were not sure what to do when, suddenly, they saw some movement from the other bank. The mother of the two cubs had entered the water and started swimming towards them. But what could they do now?
The mother bear was swimming faster and faster. The fishermen questioned why she hadn’t done this before, with her cubs. Maybe it was too hard for her to swim with them on her back, but now that she was swimming alone, it might be possible for her to cross.
With every second that passed, the mama bear got closer to them. They were happy to see that she was coming for her cubs. On the other hand, the fishermen were also scared to death by the thought of the mama bear approaching them first to take revenge for taking her cubs. Was she aware that they had just saved the lives of these baby cubs?
36. Coming to Meet Her
The fishermen did not want to endanger their own lives, so they left the cubs, went back to their boat and hoped for the best. They started the boat’s engine, and, as they sailed away, they kept an eye from afar on what was happening.
When the mama bear was about to make it to shore to see her cubs, they peacefully sailed away. Looking back at the shore, the men saw the mama bear reaching the shore and knew that she was not going to leave her cubs a second time.