The more we learn about nature, the more we learn that we are part of it. The choices we see “wild animals” make are no different than the ones we make in many cases. At times, you can see the instincts for survival at their purest, as in this story. Then you see just how connected we are to the world around us and it gives hope in the most unexpected ways. This story is about a mother bear and her cubs and a very precarious situation. The story is one that will be told for years to come.

The Struggle of Parenthood

It goes without saying that parenthood is one of the most difficult and rewarding bonds that can be formed. We know it as a time when we sacrifice everything to ensure the safety of our children. This is no different in the animal world as this story will show. In the mountains of Europe, a mother bear had to abandon her cubs in the freezing water to give them a chance to survive, knowing that her chances would be limited at best.

The Beginning of a Harrowing Day

Geeky Camel

Lake Vygozero, in the Northeastern tip of Russia is a freshwater lake that can drop to -20 C. This is a dangerous lake for humans at that temperature, but it is a fantastic fishing area. This is the lake that the mother bear tried to cross with her two cubs, but the challenges she faced were not what she was expecting.

Expectations Dashed

When she jumped into the lake to cross, she expected to swim across with her cubs on the back. It was expected that they would be able to hold on to her, ride on her back, cling to her, stay close to her in some way, but due to their age and the freezing temperatures, it was impossible for the cubs to stay  with her. This is where things took a turn for the worse.

Forced to Leave

Due to the danger of being in the lake, and her inability to save her cubs, the mother had to swim to the other side, leaving her cubs behind. This seems heartless, but it is impossible to know just what she had planned. Maybe it was survival, maybe it was to get on solid ground to find a way to save her cubs. Either way, nothing was working out.

The Current

Making matters worse, a strong current was fighting against everything the mother and the cubs could muster. This lead to the cubs moving along the current at a more rapid pace than the mother likely imagined. It seemed she expected them to follow her to shore, but with the strength of the current, and their lack of size and strength, they were no match for the water.

Hanging In There

The cubs were fighting as hard as they could, but things were not going their way. They were paddling furiously to try to catch their mother, but it seemed all hope was lost. The mother new that she had to do something, or they would surely die. What she did not know, is sometimes something intervenes to save the day.

The Struggling Cubs Find Hope

With the cubs slowly losing their fight with the lake, an unexpected sight appeared; a boat, not far off. This did not mean much as it could simply move on and offer no assistance, but it seemed the cubs felt that it was there to help them and quickly started swimming towards it.

A Day of Fishing

The boat was manned by a group of fishermen that were braving the cold waters. Once they saw the struggling cubs, they started to approach and realized that they couldn’t just head off without trying to help in some way. At the same time, they understood just how dangerous bears could be. And those that are in danger already? That is fishing for disaster.

The Cautious Approach

While the fishermen knew they had to do something, they also knew that a mother bear would be protective of her cubs, even if she wasn’t able to rescue them. Throwing caution to the wind, they started their approach slowly and kept an eye on the mother bear, waiting for her to move out of sight.

No More Waiting

The fishermen decided that there was no time to waste, mother in sight or not and put together a plan to try to save the cubs. They also started filming the entire ordeal as they knew that it would be something others in which others would be interested. They came up with a plan and tried to put it into action

The Struggle Gets Real

Once they were next to the cubs, the first tried to pull himself into the boat, but it was too much, he was tired and too small to get over the side, so he held on for as long as he could, knowing this was his only chance. There seemed to be no fear of the fishermen and an understanding that they were there to help. He wasn’t making it on the boat alone, so something had to be done.

Another Attempt

The bears, still struggling, used their teeth to hold on to the boat and try to find a way up. It wasn’t going to work, though, as the water was freezing, they were quickly draining all of their energy, and they still could not pull themselves up. They needed help.

The First Connection

The fishermen still were not sure how safe it was to assist the cubs. Small and weak as they may be, they were still potentially dangerous. They were looking for a sign that there was trust and understanding that they were simply trying to help and at the perfect moment that sign showed itself.

Just One Look

It all came down to the cub looking directly into one of the fishermen’s eyes with a look of fear and trust. They seemed to be trying to communicate. They seemed to say that we need help, you are the only ones that can help. Please. And that is all it took for the men to get to work. Starting with a very simple idea.

The Handy Fisherman

Fortunately, one of the fishermen had a plan in case the bears couldn’t get on the boat alone. It wasn’t anything elaborate. Simple plans can often prove to be the most effective and in this case, it seemed to be. A simple net would help them stay close to the boat as the fishermen worked on a way to haul them on board. This was a simple idea, but a great start to a plan. One that they all hoped would have a happy ending.

Put the Load Right On Me

Something that may not seem completely obvious is just how heavy a bear is at any size. Full grown bears weigh well over 1,000 lbs, but the cubs, including their drenched bodies, were still heavy enough that a creeping fear started that they would not be able to get the cubs out of the water.


The fishermen understood the weight of their situation, figuratively and literally, but knew that they had to push through. They were so close to rescuing the first cub that it seemed impossible to stop trying now. Everything they had would go into one more final pull, and that is just what it took. The net held, their strength held, and the first of the two cubs made it on board.

Hey, Brother

With the first cub on board, all that was left was to rescue the second. He was even more exhausted, but the situation was no safer than the first. With a similar plan in place, the fishermen used their netting to get to the bear and start to pull him up. With a little experience from the first, all it took was the strength and determination to get him on the boat.

Safe On Board

With the two bear cubs now safely on board all that was left was approaching the shore and helping them find their mother. This was likely the most dangerous part of their journey but one that they felt they had to complete. As they slowly approached the shore, they found the location close to where the mother had been hiding and watching. They figured that if they dropped the cubs off there, the mother and cubs would reunite through scent and calls.

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

With the cubs on shore after a careful approach, the fishermen were able to say goodbye to the cubs. As they watched from a distance they saw the mother coming to say hello and connect with her cubs again. The understanding between the mother and the fishermen must have been primal in nature as she kept her distance during the rescue, likely understanding that they were only trying to help. With the fishermen off, a final view showed the reunited family, giving them the satisfaction in knowing they had saved two cubs against all odds.