In the freezing cold Russia, they’re trying to swim through a half frozen lake, but it doesn’t go as they had originally planned…
You know that feeling when you’re at the edge of your seat watching a nature documentary? At the end of the movie you look up and see that hours have passed. That’s exactly how we felt when we heard this story of this mama bear and her cubs.
1. Love and loss
This story is about loss, but also hope. It’s about a loving family which is torn apart until they get some unexpected help.
A mother bear is forced to leave her cubs behind in a frozen lake with no chance of ever seeing them again. All of a sudden, fishermen appear and run to the rescue, but do they make it in time?
2. A freezing cold lake
The story begins with an ice-cold lake in Northwest Russia where temperatures often drop to 20 degrees below zero. The lake, called Vygozero, isn’t a popular place and it’s rare to see people there.
The lake is too big and too cold for people and animals to swim in safely. It’s practically impossible to get from one side to the other alive. It’s definitely not a good place for two young bear cubs to get stuck…
3. On the way
It’s unclear as to why, but the mother bear took her cubs to the side of the water. Looking for food? A place to sleep? Nobody is entirely sure why she did it.
For whatever reason, the mother decided to dive into the water. This started an adventure which put not only her own life, but that of her cubs, too, in danger.
4. A dangerous choice
Not too long after, it became clear that jumping in the water was a huge mistake. The two cubs had a terrible time trying to steer clear of the current and the ice-cold water. With much difficulty they tried to hang on to their mother’s back.
By the time they got to the middle of the lake, it became apparent that the cubs just couldn’t hang on any longer. They let go of their mother right in the middle of the lake at which point they got farther and farther away from her.
5. An awful situation
That’s when panic set in. Mother bears are normally very protective. They do everything in their power to protect their young, but in this case there wasn’t much the mama could do.
While her cubs got farther and farther away, she makes the heartbreaking decision to leave them behind and to keep swimming on her own.
6. Strong current
The water was too overpowering for the mother. As much as she wanted to stay with her cubs, the current was too strong to go back. She wasn’t even sure if she would make it to other side of the lake alive herself.
With everything she had left, the mother tried to get to a dry spot. Once she got her paws on land and looked around, half frozen, her cubs were nowhere to be seen.
7. Helpless and alone
The two young cubs were still hopelessly trying to swim through the freezing water. They had no idea where their mother was or how they could ever make it out of the water.
Their chance of ever getting out was slim to none. Young cubs already have difficulty staying warm and are much less experienced swimmers. It seemed like it was just a matter of time before the water would be too much for them…
8. Keep going!
The clock was ticking for the cubs. They became more panicked while the ice-cold water slowly started to freeze their paws. Just try to imagine how scared you would have been.
They might not be people but that doesn’t make it any better. Stuck in the ice-cold water, half sinking, searching for their mother. It would have been bone chilling.
9. Light at the end of the tunnel
The cubs looked around helplessly. Where was their mother? Was there even any land they could safely swim to? Just when they had begun to lose all hope, something showed up on the horizon…
A fishing boot with two fishermen that saw the bears. At first they couldn’t see what was going on until they realized there was no mother bear in sight. The fishermen realized they needed to spring into action quickly.
10. The cubs were exhausted
When the boat approached, they realized that time was of the essence. The cubs were having difficulty just keeping their heads above water. The fishermen had to think of a solution as quickly as possible to get them out of the water.
The fisherman needed to do something quickly. They decided to save the cubs from the ice cold water.
11. The mother watches
The mother of the cubs, exhausted on the side of the water, watches as the boat drives towards her cubs. She considered jumping back in the water to protect her cubs from the fishermen. It frightened the men who weren’t sure if it was safe to save the small cubs.
The fishermen first watch to make sure the mother won’t come close. A bear this size could easily overpower the two men. They could only help the cubs if they were sure she would stay far away.
12. A plan is made
The men had to think of a solution to get the cubs out of the water. What was the best way to go about doing this? And most importantly: what the safest way?
Even though they were small, they’re still wild animals. Once they got close enough to the cubs, anything could happen. The fishermen had to work wisely.
13. Recorded on video
One of the men happened to have a camera on him. They wanted to record the unbelievable adventure, so while the other got materials together, he started recording.
A great idea because the story it shows is unbelievable. He filmed the moment that they stopped the boat next to the cubs in the water. Right away, one of the cubs tried to climb his way out of the water.
14. A helping hand
It quickly became clear that the bears couldn’t get out onto the boat on their own. The long journey through the cold water had cost them all their energy and however hard they tried, they just couldn’t get on board.
Thankfully the fishermen sprang into action. Using their fishing materials, they were able to get the cubs on the boat.
15. The right idea
It was a difficult mission getting the cubs on board – not a task for a coincidental passerby, but for an experienced fisherman it was achievable.
This didn’t mean that the fishers were safe. The bear could still attack if the man tried to lift the bear onto the boat. They had to be careful…
16. Will it work out?
The plan seemed to be working at first but the fishermen didn’t dare pick the bears up – fearing they may bite. So they let the bears bite onto the boat so they could get up themselves.
But no matter how many times he tried, the little bear couldn’t make it onto the boat. In the end there was only one thing to do: the fisherman decided to pick the cub up with his own hands.
17. Putting his own life in danger
The fisherman wasn’t only at risk of getting bit by the bear. If he leaned too far forward he could fall in the water. Falling in the water with two panicking bear cubs would surely mean the end of his life.
The men could only hope that the bears would work with them. If that wasn’t the case, their rescue attempt would not end well.
18. Silent connection
What happened next is incredible: without saying a word to each other, the man and the cub knew exactly how to help the other out. It seemed as if the fishermen and bears understood exactly what the other needed.
The men only had to reach their arms out to help. They were just about to start the dangerous plan when they suddenly got an idea.
19. An amazing idea
In hindsight, it sounds easy, but in that moment, with adrenaline pumping through your veins, it’s much harder to come up with a solid plan.
One of the men grabbed a fishing net. Just big enough to scoop the bear up out of the water. Normally they’re only used to get big fish on board, but would it be able to hold a young cub?
20. A success?
The men were afraid that their net wouldn’t be able to hold something this heavy. They didn’t see any better options. A broken net was more than worth it if it was a question of life and death.
They started with the smaller bear. The animal was exhausted and couldn’t carry on much longer in the water. And with only a little time left to spare, they threw the net into the water behind it.
21. A heavy load
Once the bear was in the net, it wasn’t safe quite yet. The fishermen had to be sure that they didn’t injure the cub while bringing him on board.
On top of it all, they still had to make sure the cub didn’t attack them. While they had good intentions, the bear could still panic. That would mean a catastrophic end to their plan.
22. Stay calm
There was quite a bit of doubt for the fishermen. A bear on a boat is madness, but two bears on a boat?
On the other hand: leaving the two cubs to die in the ice-cold water would be terrible. The men decided to take the risk. Now they just had to find a way to calm the bears down once they got on the boat.
23. Awful chore
Once the men got going, they realized just how heavy a bear cub is. With all their might, they attempted to get the cub into the boat. They should be thankful that the cubs were still young.
Did you know that the average full-grown bear weighs around 590 kilos? No fisherman could handle that, and the fishing nets definitely couldn’t either.
24. Come on, keep going!
Thankfully the fishers were used to hard work and bad weather conditions. That didn’t make getting the bears into the boat any less of a huge operation. They had to really fight for it, mentally and physically, to get the bears on board.
After a long and hard fight, they finally get the smaller bear on the boat. It cost them lots of time, but they were one step closer to reaching their goal.
25. Welcome aboard
The first save wasn’t reason enough to celebrate. They still had one more cub to save from the water. And they were running out of time. The cub had already sunk under the water a few times and it was using up all its energy just trying to stay afloat.
On top of that, the boat had drifted, and they had to steer back to the other cub to save it.
This time the men were more confident. One bear was already on the boat so a second one shouldn’t be a problem. They knew that it would still be difficult, but they were ready.
Thank god the second one seemed to be a bit easier. They used the same technique to get the cub on board as they did for its brother. And this time it went a lot more smoothly.
27. The brothers are reunited
It cost the fishermen almost all their energy but they finally got both cubs in the boat. Exhausted, they looked at the result of their actions.
The bears were breathing hard, focusing their eyes on the fishers. In the meantime they started to wonder: “What are we going to do with the cubs?”
28. A moment of rest
After celebrating their success, the two took a moment to think about the next step: getting the bears back on land.
While they were both exhausted from their hard, there wasn’t much time to rest. The danger was still there.
The cubs were still exhausted and were shivering in a corner of the boat, but how long would it take for them to get their energy back and cause problems? They were confused and in a new setting – in a flurry of panic they could still cause some damage.
There was also a big chance that this was their first interaction with humans. And on top of all that, they missed their mother who would have protected them from the men.
30. A close bond
It was time for the fishermen to make a choice. They felt a close bond with the cubs and thought it might be a good idea to adopt them, but was that wise?
They knew that the mother of the cubs was close by, waiting on her cubs. Even with the strong connection they felt to the cubs, they knew it was better to bring them back to their mother.
31. Where is mom?
There was just one more question. In the heat of the moment, they had lost sight of the mother. They weren’t sure where she had gone. Where was she exactly?
They turned towards the land, looking for the spot where they had last seen the mother. After a long while, one of the men thought he saw a rock where the bear had set foot on land. They headed toward the coast.
32. A risky plan
The men knew that this was the most dangerous moment of their plan. Once they had gotten the boat on land, they tried to carefully get the cubs out. The mother was nowhere to be seen.
Out of nowhere they see a monstrous animal running toward the boat. It was the mother bear, looking for her cubs. The fishermen rushed back the boat. They had good intentions, but did the mother know that?
33. Putting their own lives in danger
With their backs to the bear, the men got back in the boat. While they were trying to start the motor, they heard the bear getting closer. Their hearts pounded as they drove off from the shore. That’s when they turned around.
There they were: the three bears. The looked out at the boat. The mother, on guard, with her two cubs beside her. For the fishermen it became clear: this mother bear would never leave her cubs alone again.