Teen Drops and Injures Bear Cub After Trying to Take Photos With It

by Vern Evans

Too many people have no clue how to coexist with wildlife, and this latest video of a pair of black bear cubs harassed and injured for a photo op in North Carolina is just the latest example — and the subject of a current investigation. After a woman was videoed removing a cub from a tree branch and dropping it, one of the two young bears was injured as a result and is currently in a rehabilitation facility. The other has yet to be located after it fled.

Onlookers captured the footage at an apartment complex in Asheville on Tuesday. Five people crowd around a thicket of branches hanging over a chain link fence. One of them eventually steps back with one of the bear cubs in her hands, smiling, fixing her hair, and jumping around squealing. 

“Oh my God, she’s holding it,” someone behind the camera says, clearly upset with the group’s behavior. The teen then poses for photos clutching the bear cub under its front arms, while the rest of its body dangles. Meanwhile, another person pulls the tree branches down and attempts to grab the other cub. Then a screech is heard and the first bear cub drops to the ground and runs along the fence, clearly frantic in its attempt to escape.

“Oh my god, did she just drop it?” the women filming behind the camera ask, incredulous. The bear cub sprints away from the crowd along the fenceline. It stops multiple times and reaches up, trying to find a way back over the fence to the other side but it is unsuccessful. In the final seconds of the video, the teenthat had been holding the bear cub runs up behind it and corners it against the fence, trying to grab it again.

“Put it back! It’s scared!” the onlookers behind the camera shout at the teen chasing the bear. The footage cuts right as the offending teen looks up at the camera.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene and contacted the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. NCWRC staff arrived and got word that both cubs ran away after one of the cubs bit one of the people. NCWRC BearWise coordinator Ashley Hobbs later recovered one of the cubs from a retention pond and transported it to a licensed cub rehabilitation facility, but the other cub is nowhere to be found. 

“The cub appeared to be lethargic and frightened. It looked to be favoring one of its front paws and was wet and shivering,” Hobbs said in an NCWRC press release. The goal is for the cub to be released back into the wild later this year.”

“The cub’s condition is likely a result of the unnecessary and irresponsible actions of the people involved,” NCWRC game mammals and surveys supervisor Colleen Olfenbuttel said. “Ashley and our enforcement staff searched the area for the second cub but did not locate it. Our hope is it was able to reunite with the mother because it would not survive on its own at this young age.” 

North Carolina’s animal cruelty laws protect all wildlife as well as domestic animals from anyone who attempts to “maliciously torture, mutilate, maim, cruelly beat, disfigure, poison, or kill” them. Animal cruelty is a Class H felony and punishable by four to 25 months in prison.

“Officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission have investigated this incident, and, while dangerous and unfortunate, it appears to be an isolated event,” commission spokesperson Failey Mahlum told the Citizen Times. “It is unlawful in [North Carolina] to capture and keep black bears. However, the bear cubs were immediately released, and officers have determined there will be no charges filed.”

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Olfenbuttel points out that at this time of year, bears are starting to emerge from their dens with cubs that have never seen the outside world before. Those cubs are young and highly dependent on their mothers for survival, and any harassment or intervention with them could result in their abandonment or death. 

“People who try to capture or handle a cub are not only risking the cub’s safety, but their own if the mother bear is nearby, as she may try to defend her cubs,” Olfenbuttel said. “Even if you don’t see the mother bear, she could be nearby, and the cubs are waiting for her to return. By trying to capture a bear cub, you may cause it to become orphaned, injured or both, as we saw occur in this incident.”  

Read the full article here

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