Mother Bear Abandons Cubs to Drown

A mother bear and a cub facing each other in the water.

Without a doubt, bears are strong and powerful creatures. But contrary to popular belief, these animals are much more gentle and tolerant than most are led to believe. Especially mother bears: they carry characteristics that closely resemble that of humans. They’re affectionate, protective, devoted, strict, sensitive, and attentive with their young, making their cubs a top priority in their everyday lives.

But when a mother bear and her two cubs face a difficult trek across a lake, protecting the two becomes unmanageable.

 1. An Unavoidable Journey

A brown bear on the edge of land facing the water.

In northern Russia, there is a frigid, large lake called Lake Vygozero. In the winter, the lake water turns to ice and all of its surroundings become covered in a blanket of snow. But with a scarce food supply from the harsh winter climate, animals have no choice but to brave this taunting trip across the ice. When one mother bears and two cubs’ journey didn’t go exactly as planned, the mother’s life-or-death decision was completely shocking...

 2. Food for Survival

A large brown bear eating.

Typically, Eurasian brown bears feast on grass, fruit, insects, and small animals. But in the Tundra, most animals are left with little to eat as it’s difficult to find food for survival in this climate. With the harsh winter, the mother bear and her cubs were left with little to no food on their side of the lake. Knowing it was a matter of survival for herself and her cubs, the mother took her chances on the daunting dilemma. But making it to the other side of this fragile and dangerous lake seemed almost impossible. Would she make it to the other side?

 3. Making an Executive Decision

A brown bear swimming in water.

With the well-being of her small family in mind, the mother bear knew what she had to do. While crossing this life-threatening lake wasn’t her first choice, it was necessary in order to nourish herself and her two cubs with the proper food to aid in their survival. Although brown bears tend to be strong swimmers, crossing the lake in freezing cold water was not an easy task. Channeling her brave instincts, the mother bear carried her two cubs on her back and made the jump into the depths of the bone-chilling lake.

Does it seem like the brave mother bear’s decision to brave the terrible journey is heroic? What happens next may change your mind.

4.  A Life-or-Death Decision

The side profile of a brown bear in the water.

In that moment, it was just the chilling waters of the lake, the mother bear and her two cubs, and one goal: to make it to the other side. But with the freezing temperatures of the water and the weight of the cubs on her back, it became increasingly difficult to keep swimming. 

5. Leaving the Cubs Behind

A brown bear sitting on an island in the water.

While most mother bears are extremely territorial over their young, it’s not uncommon for them to abandon them when it’s a matter of life or death. The mother bear soon came to realize that in order to increase the chances of any one of them surviving, she’d have to do what every mother fears most. . .

6. Abandonment 

Two brown bear cubs in the water playing.

Shaking her cubs off of her back and into the water, the mother bear began trekking towards land, hoping her cubs would make it on their own without her. The journey across the vast, spine-chilling lake was difficult enough for one bear to make by itself, but with two cubs on her back, it was near impossible to make it out alive. Would her cubs survive?

7. Chaos Ensues

Two brown bear cubs in the water.

The two cubs went from being protected from hardships by their mother their whole life, to being completely abandoned and left to drown. Without knowing how to swim, the cubs struggled and fought their way to land, but the chances of making it didn’t seem likely. Would they make it across and join their mother?

8. Conditions Worsen

Two brown bears fighting in the water.

As time went on and the cubs struggled to keep their heads above water, the situation only worsened when the two were tossed around by the current. Quickly, the cubs’ muscles weakened and their stamina decreased, making their chances of survival unlikely. As they drifted further and further away from land, it seemed impossible that they'd find a way to safety.

 9. A Careless Mother Watches

A close-up of the back of a head of a brown bear.

When a mother bear gives birth to her cubs, they stay by her side for two years until fleeing the nest into adulthood. But, for this mother bear and her two cubs, that time was cut short when she left them to fend for themselves in a deadly situation. As the cubs’ journey rapidly increased in difficulty, the mother watched from safety on land. She probably couldn't have helped but wonder if the end was near for the two cubs.

 10. The End is Near

Two brown bears fighting in the water.

With the two cubs growing more and more tiresome, chances of survival seemed unlikely and the end seemed to be near. But the two soon realized that they weren’t the only ones floating in the cold depths of the lake. Would this mysterious figure in the distance be a chance at surviving?

11. Safety Nearby

A fishing boat in the water.

To the cubs’ luck, the seemingly ominous object in the distance turned out to be a fishing boat. Although to them it seemed to be merely just a solid object to prop themselves up on, the boat was their only chance of safety. On the boat were two fishermen, and when the cubs starting swimming towards them, they entered an unsurprising state of shock. Most people would abandon the cubs in need, like their mother did.

12. A Change of Plans

A man on a fishing boat on the water.

Although it seems uncomfortable to fish in chilly conditions such as this one, there are benefits to it. With plenty of fresh air, no need to wait for sunshine, and a fun challenge, swimming in winter weather provides fishermen with a serene and silent experience that makes it worthwhile.

But while these two fisherman set out with a goal of catching a heaping amount of fish, the two cubs in danger caused a change in plans. What happens next may come as a surprise to you.

13. Fishermen to the Rescue

A fishing rod, a fishing net, and fishing bait.

In realizing that it’d be wrong to let these living animals struggle, the fishermen set out to try to bring the two to safety. With a plan to help the cubs up onto the boat, it became more difficult when they realized their mother was on the land, watching it all go down. Without any idea that she abandoned them prior, the two fishermen became doubtful of their rescue mission in fear of the mother’s reaction. Would they follow through with it?

14. Fear of the Unknown

A brown bear walking up a hill.

While female bears are already quite territorial animals, Eurasian bears specifically are very aggressive. Knowing this, the fishermen were nervous about interacting with mother bear’s cubs. 

15. An Anxious Mother

A brown bear bent over in grass.

The mother bear was pacing back and forth, watching the cubs in the water as they swam quickly to the boat. To make matters worse, the fishermen had no clue how they cubs would react once on board. Could the cubs finally be saved?

16. All Aboard

A brown bear cub trying to get on a fisherman's boat.

Putting their fears to the side, the fishermen decided to save the cubs. With the pressure to move slow enough so that the boat didn’t hit the cubs—and to prove to the cubs that they can trust them—the fishermen put on their bravest faces and got to work. Slowly but surely, the cubs swam to the boat to climb on board. But then they encountered a new difficulty: trying to hoist themselves up.

17. A Crafty Attempt

A brown bear cub trying to get on a fisherman's boat.

Because the fishermen didn’t want to physically touch the cubs in fear of a violent reaction, they decided to use a fishing net to their advantage. But after a solid attempt at helping the first bear up, the fisherman seemed to be struggling. It seemed like this alternative plan would never work.

18. Teeth of Steel

A brown bear cub trying to get on a fisherman's boat.

After an effort to help the bears with a fishing net, the fishermen were uncertain that they would be able to save them after all. But suddenly, the cubs took their fate into their own paws and used their strong and powerful teeth to help pull themselves up onto the boat. As this happened, the cub and fishermen shared a special moment.

19. A Moment of Realization

A bear cub in a fishing net.

While the fishermen started off unsure and fearful of helping the cubs, the worry was taken away when one of the fishermen stared into one of the cubs' eyes, which almost seemed to say thank you. From then on, the fishermen knew they’d do whatever it takes to get the cubs to safety, despite the odds.

20. Success!

A brown bear cub hoisting itself up onto a fishing boat.

Finally, the cubs were able to get themselves on board with the fishermen after a long, dangerous journey. Although the cubs’ teeth ended up being a large help, the fishermen were able to assist them in the last push to safety with the fishing net and their ever-lasting determination. But with two bears on board, nothing can quite go as expected.

21. Uncertainty Awaits

Two brown bear cubs climbing up a hill.

When you go camping or on a venture out into nature, it’s common to be wary of possible bear sightings. Signs say to stay calm and collected and slowly remove yourself from the situation if a bear is sighted. But, nothing in life prepares you for two cubs on the same boat as you. That being said, the fishermen were baffled and fearful with the bears on board. What would they do next?

22. A Sense of Comfort

A large body of water with bushes and trees.

As the fisherman reflected on their situation, they realized that they were not at risk with the two cubs on board. In fact, the two bears seemed grateful and happy to be alive. They were trembling from the cold and worn out from the difficult journey, and confused to be in the presence of humans. Now that everyone had calmed down, what would the fishermen do with the cubs? It was a bold decision, to say the least.

23. A New Mission

Two brown bears climbing up a hill.

With the two cubs safe in the boat, the fishermen decided to attempt reuniting them with their mother. The idea was that if the two bears could get back to the mother bear, they would be able to return to their normal routine and move on from the traumatizing event. But one question remained: Would their mother accept them again?

24. Finding Mama Bear

A brown bear cub looking off into the distance.

The fishermen began to drive around the lake, looking for the mother bear of the two helpless cubs. They both knew that they were familiar enough with Lake Vygozero to scope out possible locations of the mother bear, but they weren’t familiar with how the mother bear would react at their arrival. Would she attack?. . .

25. No Luck

A brown bear up close.

After searching for the cubs’ mother, the fishermen quickly realized that they were out of luck. They searched for bear trails and circled back to where they saw the mother bear last, but still, there was no sight of her. Without any other choice, the fishermen decided it was time to say goodbye. But they had no way of knowing how the cubs would react.

26. Saying Goodbye

A high shot of a lake with trees in the foreground.

After deciding that mother bear was nowhere to be found, the fishermen had to part ways with their two new friends. But as the cubs realized what was about to happen, they seemed surprisingly reluctant to leave their saviors. Would their departure from the humans be an easy one?

27. A Rough Departure

A brown bear cub climbing on top of branches.

As the fishermen lifted the cubs in their arms and prepared to part ways, the cubs held on as if they wanted to stay. But after some time of holding back, they finally let go and left for the island. A question lingered: What would happen to the innocent cubs without their mother?

28. Alone Again

Two brown bear cubs looking alert in the wilderness.

As the cubs were dropped off on the island, the fishermen found themselves sad to see them go. The men and the cubs formed a bond, which once seemed impossible. Although the fishermen recorded the entire ordeal on camera, they knew it was an experience they would never forget. The cubs soon trekked forward and began the search on their own for their mother and the fishermen began to head back on the lake. 

29. It’s a Bear Thing

A large brown bear up close.
Photo Courtesy of © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0]

I know what you may be thinking—it is incredibly cruel and wrong for the mother bear to abandon her cubs during the dangerous journey. But actually, it is quite common for animals, including bears, to abandon their young when it’s a matter of life of death. In fact, there have been several cases of mothers eating their own cubs when food is scarce. How could they do such a thing, you ask?

30. It’s All About Surviving

A large brown bear laying on a log.

According to Science ABC, “researchers don’t know the exact reasons why animals sometimes kill their own babies, but it’s generally believed that it might satisfy the energy and nutritional requirements of the parent, make the parent more attractive to potential mates, and help in getting rid of offspring that are sick or take too long to mature. In some cases, animals eat their eggs to protect them from predators.” So in short, it’s all about surviving when animals eat their young. But in this case, are Eurasian brown bears different?

31. One and the Same

A brown bear laying on a log in the forest.

No. Eurasian brown bears are no different than any other type of animal that eats their young when they need to. Again, it’s all about survival and maximizing their resources when it comes down to it. What other traits do Eurasian brown bears possess?

32. Eurasian Brown Bears

A close up to the side of a Eurasian brown bear.

Eurasian brown bears are 300 to 800 pound bears that typically dine on sprouts, plants, roots, insects, fish, and mammals. According to World Atlas, “Eurasian brown bear dominates its lands as an apex predator.” These bears are typically very aggressive in nature and are known to attack humans. But are the mother bears any different?

33. Mother Eurasian Bears

A brown bear swimming in the water.

If the fishermen would’ve found the mother of the cubs and returned them back to her, it’s likely that she would be far from grateful. Because Eurasian brown bears are typically aggressive and dangerous in nature, the mother bear would’ve been likely to react as if the fishermen served as a potential threat to her babies, even though they were quite far from it. I guess it’s a good thing she was nowhere to be found, after all! 

34. Eurasian Brown Bear Cubs

A brown bear cub laying on its back.

Like most bears, bear cubs are born completely blind and hairless, and completely dependent on their mother. Depending on the species, bear cubs can rely on their mother for around one to three years until they’re ready to be on their own. Eurasian brown bear cubs are a lot less dangerous than adult Eurasian brown bears, but they’re still bears after all, so it’s important to remain cautious in their presence. 

35. Memories Made

A mother bear and two cubs playing in the grass.

Overall, the cubs and the humans created a once unimaginable bond. While the cubs were reluctant to go off on their own, the fishermen could tell that they were much more trusting of them than they once were. The cubs’ destiny seemed morbid at first, but the fishermen saved the day in a way that they will never forget! 

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