Fishermen Save Drowning Bear Cubs For Grateful Mama Bear


What would you do if two baby bears were drowning and you were on a nearby boat?

This was the dilemma faced by a group of Russian fishermen back in 2017. They went out on the water with the intention of only catching fish. But when they saw two baby bears about to drown, they had to make a quick decision that would soon change all of their lives.

What was the plan? How did everything go, and were they able to return these drowning baby bears to their mother? Keep reading to discover the answers!

How the bears got in trouble

All of this went down in Lake Vygozero, located within the freezing cold of Siberia. There, the temperatures are usually -4 degrees Fahrenheit. If a human were to dive into that water, they would almost instantly freeze and then go into a state of hypothermia.

Animals don’t fare much better in this frigid water, which is why it’s important for bears to quickly swim from one location to another. At one point, a mama bear and her two cubs dived into the water with the intention of swimming from one edge of the lake to another.

Unfortunately, the mama bear overestimated how well her little cubs could swim. They became trapped in the freezing water, and their mother kept swimming. That may seem sad to us, but she had to save herself since she had no real way of saving her flailing offspring.

That’s when the most unlikely saviors appeared: a boat full of Russian fishermen!

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Humans being bros

At this moment, the crew of the boat had a decision to make: to save the bears or let them be. And that decision was not as easy as you might think. After all, these cubs had likely never seen a human being before. And bringing them on a boat full of people could be a quick way of getting many humans killed.

Still, they ultimately decided it was worth the risk. According to the Daily Mail, veteran Moscow fisherman Ruslan Lukanin summed their decision up perfectly. “It was dangerous, of course. But they are living creatures. We couldn’t just look the other way.”

Of course, deciding to save the cubs was one thing. Actually figuring out how to pull it off was going to be something else altogether!

Improvising a plan

Once they decided to brave the danger of bringing the cubs on board, the biggest challenge the fishermen faced was one of logistics. They had a small boat filled with delicate equipment designed specifically to catch fish. There was no guarantee that their equipment would work for an ersatz bear rescue. And even if it did, the equipment could easily break, especially if the cubs freaked out and started putting up a fight. If they weren’t careful, the entire boat could turn over!

When they got close to one of the cubs, the little bear reached out to the boat for safety. However, the bear couldn’t pull himself up on his own. Seeing him struggle, the fishermen used a net attached to a pole in an attempt to “fish” the beleaguered cub out of the water.

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A group effort

Eventually, the crew had to use a second net. It took several men to bring the bear in, especially considering that the soaking wet bear cub weighed more than he would dry. And in a surreal moment, the men sang and spoke sweetly to the bear, hoping to calm it down (for the cub’s sake as well as their own).

Eventually, the group managed to bring all 150 pounds of bear on board. They were happy, but they knew their work wasn’t done. After all, a second cub was still struggling out on the water!

Rinse and repeat

The good news is that this second cub proved much easier to rescue. The first reason for this is that the fishermen no longer had to improvise a plan on the fly. They knew what worked for the first cub and intended to simply repeat the process with the second cub. The second reason is that this next cub had lost more energy, meaning that he put up less of a fight during the rescue process.

Now that both bears were on the boat, the men realized the cubs needed food, warmth, and comfort they could not provide. These cubs didn’t need to stay with their human rescuers. Instead, they needed to be reunited with their mother.

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Returning the cubs to their mother

Returning the cubs to their mother was made more difficult by a simple fact: the mother was nowhere to be seen. Once again, the men had to improvise, and they set course towards her last known location.

Once they landed, the men still didn’t see the mama bear. That was actually quite scary. An adult female bear would be much bigger than her cubs, and possibly much more aggressive, especially if she thought the men were endangering her cubs. There’s a reason we use the phrase “mama bear” to describe human mothers who are fiercely defensive of their children!

Eventually, the fishermen decided the best thing to do was let nature take its course. They released the cubs on the shore so that they could follow the scent of their mother. There, they would be reunited with a very grateful mama bear.