What Happened After This Man Saved These Bear Cubs From Drowning?

American black bear sow and spring cub walking towards the camera in a forest Credit: Getty

People traversing through the forest are often warned about bears. They’re massive, powerful, and incredibly territorial. Especially when it comes to a mother protecting her children. Yet, one man decided to risk life and limb to save a pair of bear cubs, and this is what happened after.

Frigid Russia

The incident occurred at Lake Vygozero, in the northwestern part of Russia. It’s the largest freshwater lake in the Republic of Karelia. The freezing temperatures of the lake can get as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius). That, coupled with its vastness, make it extremely difficult for animals to cross it by swimming. While humans can simply avoid the lake in the winter, animals don’t really have a choice.


Regardless of how safe an animal can be, there are times where they have to come out to search for food. This happened to a mother bear and her two cubs. They were starving and the mother decided to take a gamble and cross the lake.

Learning To Swim The Hard Way

The mother began crossing, but she had made a slight miscalculation when it came to her cubs. She knew how to swim, but her cubs did not. Usually, they would learn to swim through practice, but at their young age they didn’t yet have the skill set to swim through such a dangerous lake. The mother just kept swimming, but her children were stuck in the middle of the lake.


Yet, even as her children were struggling, the mother did not go back to help them. She just kept swimming. While it was likely heartbreaking, either she could survive or all three of them would freeze in the lake. Although, it seemed as though she somehow knew that her cubs would be alright.

The Wild Lake

Not only is Lake Vygozero incredibly cold, but it is also known to be quite wild. Even specialized ships can’t float in the lake when it gets stormy. After a great deal of struggle, the mother managed to get to shore, but the cubs were still stuck in the center of the lake. And their situation became worse and worse by the second.

In Need Of Saving

Bears are intelligent creatures, but even in this scenario, it was clear to the mother that there was nothing she could do. She couldn’t simply go back into the lake and her children were losing strength quickly. Fortunately, they managed to find another way to escape their predicament.

Enter The Fishermen

The subs struggling to survive, a glimmer of hope arrived on the scene. There was boat in the center of the lake and the people  onboard could see the bear cubs’ plight. Not one to just let poor creatures suffer, he sprung into action to see what he could do.

Ready To Help

The fishermen soon reached the location where the bears were drowning. They were ready to help, but didn’t exactly have a plan to do so. They couldn’t hop into the water themselves, or else they’d likely freeze faster than the bears. And, of course, their ship was designed to catch fish, not bears. And if the boat broke, then they’d all be in trouble. So, they began trying different methods to see if anything would work.

The Nearby Mother

Of course, another issue was the nearby mother. Female bears are territorial and protective of their young. She could go over to attack or capsize the boat. Additionally, the cubs could lash out after being brought aboard. However, they still didn’t have time to worry about that, or else the cubs might die.

Filming It All

Before they even had a concrete plan, one of the fishermen took out his phone to film the scene before them. Not something particularly helpful, but they wanted to share this with the world. And right as this started, one of the cubs headed towards the boat and the fishermen worked together to try to get it onboard.

Coming Aboard

One of the fishermen tried to reach the bear, but it was just too far away. The other fisherman began pulling out ship gear in an attempt to help. At this point, it became obvious to the bears that these humans were trying to save them, so they started to try to grab onto the side of the boat themselves.

Rescue In Earnest

At this point, with the bear cub desperately clawing at the side of the ship, it made eye contact with one of the fishermen. An understanding passed between them that they were not a danger to each other, and the fisherman began more earnestly trying to help the bear cub. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t an easy thing to do.

Fishing Up Bears

Simply using their hands was proving unhelpful, so the fishermen began using their tools. They began using their fishing nets, which proved strong enough to support the cub’s weight. They got the first one onto the ship, managing to calm it down quickly after it was aboard.

Cubs Rescued

The other bear cub proved to be heavier than the first, but was soon onboard the ship as well. The cubs were frozen and shivering, but the worst was over. The bigger issue was now returning them to their mother. The bears didn’t have much more contact with the humans while they headed back to shore.

Where To Return Them

Since bears didn’t make very good pets, the fishermen decided to return the cubs to their mother. However, they didn’t know which island in Lake Vygozero they had returned to. Even after searching every island, they were clueless. She had just vanished.

Saying Goodbye

Ultimately, the fishermen decided to drop off the cubs on one of the more likely candidates than hold onto them any longer. By this point, the cubs and humans had formed a bond, however brief their interaction may have been. The cubs were still weak, but the fishermen had no choice but to leave them on one of the islands and began to leave. However, the fishermen still felt as though they had done the right thing.

Worth It!

It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to the cubs, perhaps it was as easy as it was to rescue them in the first place. They had been brave sailors and had done the right thing. Something important to remember is that while bears might be violent, they generally stay away from humans. So these bears seeking assistance from them shows how dire the situation was for them.

The Unknown Future

The fishermen dropped off the bears without ever actually seeing them reunite with their mother. Which may have been a good thing for them, all things considered. However, it’s nice to think that the bears did reunite with their mother, and soon grew into powerful beasts of their own. Bears are noble beasts, and these fishermen were noble for saving them when they were in danger.

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