There is an old saying that the bond between a mother and her child is the strongest we know. But this story is going to challenge that preconception.
Lake Vygozero, lying north near the border of Russia and Finland, becomes a hazardous place during the winter season. The terrain surrounding the lake transforms into a snowy tundra. As a result, most people avoid visiting the area in winter. In these extreme conditions, a mother bear and her two cubs had to cross the freezing lake to reach the other side. But they faced a daunting dilemma...
On one hand, swimming across the nearly-frozen lake can be a challenge considering the harsh winter weather; on the other hand, being stuck on the frozen land wasn't viable for the young cubs due to the lack of food in the tundra. The mother bear had to do something, and fast. Eventually, she decided to dive in and try her chances. But it was no easy task...
With both cubs on her back, the mother bear dove into the freezing-cold water and began swimming as fast as she could. But with every paddle, success became increasingly unlikely. Faced with roaring winds and strong currents, the mother started to fear the three wouldn't make it. She then did something that really goes against our romanticized view of the mother-cub relationship.
While many mothers would give their own lives for the sake of their children's, this bear chose to take a more practical approach. She shook her cubs off her back into the water and then began making her way toward the other side alone. As she made it to shore safely, she didn't even look back to check on her children. Would the two poor cubs make it across? Their chances were slim.
The little cubs were left struggling and in a state of panic. The current tossed their small, untrained bodies around. Soon they started to tire and succumb to the frigid water. The two were paddling just to keep their heads above the water, hopeless and directionless. Their mother didn't seem to even flinch. Without their mother's help, what would happen to the two little cubs?
As the struggling cubs were unable to keep up with the current, they began to drift downstream farther away from their mother and from both shores. It seemed like the end for both of them. In the distance, however, a large object was floating through in the water. The young cubs couldn't see it, but the current pushed them in its direction nevertheless.
It turned out to be a fishing boat with two Russian fishermen on board. The young bears finally noticed the boat. They had no idea what it was, but they could tell it was a solid surface they could climb onto for relief from the freezing water. The two began paddling as fast as they could toward the boat. As exhausted as they were, could the bears actually get rescued?
The fisherman had intended to spend their day catching fish and taking in the serenity of the frigid lake. Suddenly, they noticed the two struggling cubs. Gasping for air and swinging their paws in panic, it was becoming harder and harder for them to keep their heads above water. With literally no one else around, the men knew they had to do something. But they hesitated...
The fishermen saw the mother bear pacing back and forth on the shore. Female bears can be very territorial, particularly over their cubs. To add to that fear, they weren't sure how the cubs would react once they were hauled onto the boat with two "strange" creatures. Bears can be aggressive, especially when frightened. As time was running out, they decided to take the risk.
They got their boat as close to the bears as possible. Before they did anything, one of the bears grabbed the side of the boat and tried to climb in on his own, and the other followed suit. Unfortunately, after having struggled in the water for all this time, the two cubs were too weak to make it aboard alone. One of the men quickly grabbed a fishing net to help pull the first bear up. But it didn't work!
Ultimately, the trick involved the cubs themselves. The two bears just realized they could clench their strong teeth on the side of the boat and hold themselves out of the water, thus relieving their four limbs from struggling to stay afloat in the river. Still, their little bodies were faltering. What could be done to finally save the two helpless cubs?
As the men watched the young cubs holding on for their lives, one of them experienced a real emotional bonding moment with the bears. As he tried his best to pull one of the cubs, he found it staring at him right in the eye, almost as if he knew the man was helping him and that he appreciated it. It was in this moment that the men knew for sure they had made the right decision, and that they weren't going to give up.
Once again, they gave it their all to pull the first cub onto their boat, and with an almighty effort, they finally succeeded. Using the same strategy, they then pulled the other cub to safety shortly after. Frightened and gasping for air, the two bears laid on the corner of the boat. Feeling the fear, the fishermen kept their distance at first. But the bears certainly didn't seem to pose any threat to their saviors.
Now the panic was over, the fishermen got a closer look at their guests and assessed their situation. They were not in a good way, shaking from the cold winter breeze and trembling with shock. But despite all this, they were clearly glad to be onboard. The bear has historically been a symbol of pride for all Russians and the men were ecstatic that their actions to save the cubs had succeeded. But now, what would they do with the bears?
Bears aren't the kind of animals that make ideal pets. They are wild animals and belong in the wilderness. The best way the men could help the animals was to return them to their mother. The cubs were surely missing their mother, and their mother would probably welcome them back. In hope of a family reunion, the men began searching for the mother bear. Could they find her?
The fishermen knew Lake Vygozero well, and they thought they could find the two bears' mother on an island. Still, the cub-saviors were worried about how the mother bear would react seeing human beings carrying her offspring. Full-grown bears can be deadly, especially females protecting their cubs. Eventually, they decided to take the risk, but they were very careful.
They drove around the lake in search of land. When finally reached the island, the fishermen stepped out of their boat onto the land slowly and carefully. They stopped for a moment at the shore, looking for bear trails. Nothing. They waited for a while, scanning the wooded area in the distance and still nothing. What were they to do now?
With no guarantee of finding the estranged mother bear, the fishermen had no other choice but to say goodbye. Astonishingly, when they put the cubs down on the ground, the two little cubs were reluctant to leave. They had built a bond with their saviors. The men were sad to let go too, but they knew they had done the right thing. Eventually, the bears began trekking forward...
The mother bear's abandonment of her cubs might seem cruel, but she had only done so to survive. It has been well-documented that animals, bears included, sometimes do abandon or even eat their young to preserve their own lives. It's pure survival instinct. Luckily, in this story, all of the three bears made it across the lake and survived.