When a mother bear decided to cross a frozen lake in northern Russia, it was only natural for her cubs to follow her into the icy waters.
Unfortunately, this proved to be a big mistake as the lake’s freezing cold temperatures and stronger-than-expected currents slowly began to sap them of their strength.
The cubs were soon in serious trouble and would need a miracle if they were not to drown. That’s when a boat appeared on the horizon … but would it get to the cubs on time? Read on to find out.
Crossing The Lake
Lake Vygozero is a lake in the frozen wastes of north west Russia. The mother bear needed to cross the lake in order to reach the other side. Being big and strong, she could cross the lake with ease; her thick fur protecting her from freezing to death in the icy waters. Her cubs, on the other hand, would have to cling to her for dear life if they were to survive.
Conditions Were Treacherous
Lake Vygozero is extremely cold, as most things in that part of Russia tend to be. The temperature in the lake can dip to an icy minus twenty Celsius. If the mother bear was to get her cubs across safely, she would have to swim as fast as she possibly could. The cubs could only cling on for so long, so this was a matter of life and death.
Clinging On For Dear Life
The mother entered the lake and her little cubs followed behind. It was soon obvious that her cubs were struggling, and it wasn’t long before they were clinging to their mother for dear life. The cubs were getting weaker and weaker as the icy temperatures and the effort of swimming took their toll.
Unfortunately, as the mother bear emerged from the lake on the other side, it became painfully obvious that something had gone horribly wrong. The cubs were no longer clinging to her fur. The mother bear had tried to stay with them, but eventually had to abandon them to save her own life. It was a desperate situation.
The Cubs Were In Trouble
Meanwhile, back out on the lake, the cubs were in trouble. The effort of swimming, the freezing temperatures and the effort of holding on to their mother had zapped them of their strength. Things were starting to get critical for the little cubs.
A Desperate Fight For Life
The cubs were going nowhere. By this stage, they were just treading water, desperately trying to stay afloat as the icy cold slowly drained them of all their strength. Things were not looking good for the cubs. They would need a miracle now if they were to survive.
The Cubs Are Spotted
Luckily, a local fishing boat spotted the cubs and headed towards them. The fishermen on board were hoping to catch some fish that day, but when they spotted the struggling bear cubs, they knew they couldn’t ignore them. These creatures were in trouble, and the fishermen were determined to save them.
Keeping Their Distance
There was, of course, one problem with the rescue plan. The mother bear was still on the shore, and the fishermen worried that she might jump into the lake and attack the boat if the fishermen touched her cubs. However, on seeing the boat approach, the mother bear backed away, possibly fearful of humans. The rescue was on!
The Fishermen Reach The Cubs
The fishermen reached the desperate cubs. They were clearly incredibly weak and not a little confused at this strange turn of events. As one fisherman grabbed his smartphone to film the rescue, the other fisherman tried to figure out how to get the cub on board without frightening it or getting bitten by it. It was a bit of a dilemma.
How To Get Them On Board?
Luckily, being fishermen, there were nets on board the boat. The fishermen decided to help the cubs on board by ‘catching’ them in a net like they would catch a fish. Gently, they hooked the net around the back of the first cub and started to pull it up. Could their plan work? Only time would tell!
Fishing The Cub Out
The cub was struggling to get into the boat. Luckily, it now had the aid of a safety net. Little by little the scared and frozen bear cub used the last bit of energy it could muster to slowly clamber towards safety. The fishermen encouraged it to use its little legs to hoist itself aboard, but it was still touch and go.
One Last Push
Finally, the little bear manged to get into the boat thanks to the fishermen’s help and its own determination. The fishermen couldn’t believe their eyes and they were delighted as the little cub scrambled on to the boat. It was time to turn their attention to the other cub. One down, one to go!
Cub Number Two
It was time to rescue the second cub. The fishermen knew what they were doing now, so this rescue was going to be easier than the first. They again wrapped their fishing net around the little cub and began slowly hauling it on board their boat. The cub was incredibly heavy, but the fishermen drew on all their reserves of strength to pull the frightened creature out of the water.
It Was A Struggle
With both cubs now safely on board their boat, the fishermen now had to figure out what on earth they were going to do with them. The mother bear was now nowhere to be seen, and they were in charge of two cold and frightened bear cubs. When they headed out to do some fishing that day, they never expected this!
A Strange Catch
The fishermen toyed with the idea of keeping the cubs and taking them back to their village and handing them over to wildlife authorities. They realized this wasn’t the best thing to do, so instead they decided they would land their boat and let the cubs off. They hoped that the mother was still nearby, and would come to her cubs when she heard their calls.
Bringing The Cubs Ashore
The fishermen patrolled the shore, looking for the best place to land and let the cubs go. They settled on a bank close to where they had last seen the mother bear. They headed for the bank, landed the boat and prepared to say their goodbyes to their two little passengers.
The cubs were still very weak, so the fishermen gently picked them up and carried them to the shore. They had grown rather fond of these little creatures, and were still in two minds about whether to keep them or not. However, they knew that leaving them on the shore was the best solution as they were certain their mother would find them soon enough. Reluctantly, the fishermen said their goodbyes and sailed away.
Where Was Mom?
As the fishermen glanced back at the cubs they had left behind, there was still no sign of the mother. Had they done the right thing? They scanned the woods for signs of life, but could not see the mother bear as the shore and the cubs slowly disappeared from view. They hoped and prayed that the mother would find her cubs again.
Are They Alone?
Left alone, the cubs began calling for their mother. They had already survived one desperate situation thanks to the kindly fishermen’s intervention, but there was no way they could fend for themselves as they had not learned the survival skills vital to all bears. They called for the mother … but would she answer their calls?
A Family Reunited
The answer was yes! The mother bear heard her cubs calling from the shore and lumbered over to them. The cubs were delighted to see their mother after being separated for so long, and in turn the mother was overjoyed to have her babies back. It had all worked out fine in the end, and it was all thanks to two kindly fishermen who saw some cubs in trouble and came to their rescue. Here’s to you, fishermen!
Another Incredible Bear Human Story
Appearances can be deceiving and although Fifi the bear may look big, strong and tough – she has actually had the most devastating life of torture and abuse.
After 30 years of living in squalor, Fifi’s life completely turned around…
Before her rescue however, the poor bear was completely unrecognisable – just skin and bones and a tormented look in her eyes. Her heartbreaking story started 32 years ago when she came into the possession of a private owner who was looking for Syrian brown bears.
As well as buying Fifi, the awful owners also bought a male brown bear named Bruno and these people were not keeping them as exotic pets, in fact they had extremely disturbing intentions with the animals. Their new owner planned to train them to perform tricks for money on the streets – and this wasn’t like teaching a dog to sit or roll over, their owners used inhumane practises to teach the bears.
As you can imagine, the next 10 years that followed for the poor animals was anything but pleasant. They were made to ride bikes, walk upright and were completely neglected when they were not performing. It seems that Fifi and Bruno’s owner was not impressed with their new-found “tricks” however.
Because of this, their owner brought in two black bears names Pocahontas and Marsha to see if they would be more submissive during performances, unfortunately for him, they proved equally as rebellious – as they should, they are wild animals!
So that was four bears in his possession who were not going to comply with his cruel training methods. But that didn’t mean that he was all of a sudden going to set them free, the owner made his money in an equally as inhumane way – he opened up a roadside attraction called the Big Bear Farm Zoo Park.
Thankfully the Pennsylvanian “zoo” didn’t live up to the owner’s expectations and was referred to by the Wild Animal Sanctuary as a “Back yard display”. The attraction lost the owner money and even came under legal fire in 2016…
According to a report by Inside Edition the Big Bear Farm Zoo Park breached many animal rights laws and was consequently shut down in 1995, but the owner still had the poor bears in his possession – they still lived in horrendous conditions, the only change was that they zoo was not open for the public to observe the animals.
The WildLife Animal Sanctuary revealed just how bad the bears’ living conditions were in a Facebook post in 2015, “[They] had been kept in small concrete and steel-bar cages for 30 years, the four bears only had small rotted wood boxes to lay in.”
The post continued, “But [they] were not large enough for the bears to fit into completely. Nor did they have an end wall to close off the box from winter snow and cold.” It was obvious that the owner was no longer interested in the bears whatsoever if they weren’t going to bring in an income.
After an astonishing 30 years, the owner finally decided to sell the bears – but not in the way you would expect, no the heartless man simply put out an ad for metal cages – but the buyer would have to take the animals too.
Thankfully, rather than another terribly cruel owner – it was PETA and the Wildlife Animal Sanctuary who picked the poor bears up. The Sanctuary’s executive director, Pat Craig told Inside Edition, “They were so well hidden in the country. [No one even knew] they were there.”
Unfortunately when the bears were rescued, professionals didn’t know if both their ages and their conditions meant that transporting them would be impossible so specialists were required to do a medical check-up of each bear on the scene. Thankfully, they were given the thumbs up to be transported but veterinarians found something else during their examinations which was heartbreaking…
PETA published an article in 2016 stating the true extent of the bears thanks to their 30 years of torture and neglect, “Three decades of standing on a concrete slab with no chance to roam […] had taken their toll. Fifi suffered from painful arthritis in her rear legs and was severely underweight. Her coat was thin and unkempt, and her eyes were sunken in.”
The report concluded that they didn’t know if Fifi “Could bounce back”. The Wildlife Animal Sanctuary later exposed another aspect of their 30 years in squalor that was detrimental to the bears’ health and future in a Facebook post, “Their owner felt they shouldn’t hibernate and made sure they stayed awake each winter for decades.” This is shocking!
Thankfully, the bears’ new home in the sanctuary’s reserve in Colorado reduced many of the animals’ health problems and even though their 30 years of torment wasn’t going to fade away in an instant, their new surroundings allowed the animals to get their strength back and become more confident. Fifi was the first bear to venture into the open pen and her friends were quick to follow suit.
Craig told Inside Edition, “The first three or four steps [Fifi] took when we let her out of her transfer cage, she got into the water tank.[We knew] her spirit was going to soar really quickly. [Although her] body was going to take a while to catch up.”
After a few months of healthy food and living in the appropriate environment for the species, the bears were given the chance to do something that they were denied to do for three decades – hibernate! This natural process for bears is so important to their health so the sanctuary wanted to make sure they got it right. They installed caves for each bear to make sure it would replicate their hibernation surroundings in the wild.
Even though the bears have are well into their advanced years, their new home has given them the lease of life that they needed and deserved. After 30 years of suffering, finally the bears can live the way they were supposed to – in peace! The sanctuary’s public relations manager, Jason Maxey was ecstatic with the bears’ progress…
He told Fox News in 2015, “These animals have never been fed or treated properly. Here they will get the care and treatment. [They will] live out their days with good food and plenty of natural habitat to roam.”