You know how sometimes you get so caught up in a wildlife documentary that you feel completely attached to the animals’ stories?


This is how you’ll feel reading this article. Because it’s more than just an article, it’s a story about facing adversity, the power of nature, and the kindness of strangers. Read on to learn more about the heroic tale of a mother bear and her two cubs defying all odds to swim across a freezing lake in Russia. It didn’t go as planned, however. Read on to learn of the heroic tale.

A Tale of Loss, and Love

This story is about sacrifice and hope, fear and loss. It is about the unspoken bond of a loving family and two different species coming together to save lives.

When a mother bear left her cubs for dead in the middle of a bitterly cold lake, the cubs were in need of savior. Luckily, some fishermen nearby embarked on a rescue mission - but did they succeed?

An Unforgiving Lake

The tale begins on a freshwater lake known as Lake Vygozero, in the northwestern region of Russia. This body of water is so incredibly cold that temperatures have been known to go down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, or -20 degrees Celsius (safe to say that this lake isn’t a major water-skiing destination!)

Given the lake’s large size and freezing temperatures, it is far too cold for humans and most other wildlife (apart from fish!) to swim in.  It seems to be impossible to make it from one side to another without getting a bitter chill. With this in mind - continue reading to find out what happens to the baby bears that were stranded in this unforgivingly cold lake.

Somewhere to Get To

It is unclear, and we may never know why the mother bear decided to cross these waters with her newborn cubs. However, the maternal instinct is powerful in most species, especially bears.

So when she stood at the edge, felt the bite of the cold water, and decided to jump in anyway, we wonder what motivated her r to keep going. She was one tough lady bear - although this unfortunately put her two little ones in danger as they were not as tough as she may have thought.

A Terrible Decision

Unfortunately the decision to jump into the lake with her two cubs was not a safe one. With them clinging onto her back, her strength and will was just not enough in the freezing temperature.

They began their journey across the lake, but after some time it became all too clear that she couldn’t keep going while holding their weight. and that the cubs just couldn’t keep up. The cubs eventually ended up far out in the lake’s center, scrambling for dear life with no idea of where to go from there.

A Harsh Sacrifice

Now the story takes a painful twist. Mother bears have been known to be selfless animals willing to sacrifice themselves for their young when their maternal instincts kick in. However, this wasn’t the case with this mother bear.

Regardless of her initial intentions, she ultimately ditched her cubs and started to swim away, leaving them helpless in the water. This decision may baffle some wildlife observers, however, when it comes to life and death in the wild, survival instincts seem to have overrode this momma bear’s maternal ones.

The Current was Too Strong

We have to give her some credit though, as the lake had a very powerful undercurrent, which was already incredibly difficult to swim in. She did try, but ultimately after battling the current with her babies on her back, she found herself being torn apart from her cubs.

After being separated, she tried to save herself, possibly hoping that her cubs could make it on their own. After swimming for some time, the mother bear eventually made it safely to land. Sadly, without her baby cubs.

Somebody Help!

So now we find the bear cubs alone, exhausted, and desperate in this freezing lake. How will they survive now that their mother - their protector - has abandoned them?

The odds were totally against them, especially since young bears do not generally have much experience swimming in such a cold environment.

Holding for Dear Life

Can you imagine what this would be like for these baby cubs? Terror and panic running through their minds while the cold water rushed over them?

Even though they are not human, treading water in the face of death would be enough for any living being to be absolutely terrified.

A Rescue on The Horizon?

When all seemed hopeless for these little cubs, magically, a boat appeared. Quickly, the situation became clear - it was a race against the clock to save the scared little ones from drowning.

The fishermen knew something was wrong. With no momma bear in sight, they knew that they had to do something to help rescue them. Could they do it?

Tired Little Ones

As the boat got closer to the cubs, the disastrous situation became clear. The babies were  incredibly exhausted and struggling to keep their heads above the water, and the crew didn’t know how to safely pluck them out of the water.

Interestingly enough, the boat was actually a fishing vessel. Ironically instead of catching fish, they were now hoping to catch themselves two little bear cubs.

An Observer Close by

Though the mother bear left the babies in the water, she was still very close by on the shore, watching the whole scene unfold. As this mother was a rather large bear the fisherman were unsure whether to proceed, in fear for their own safety. The bear still had a strong maternal instinct and they feared that the mother might try to intervene and climb aboard their vessel.

Even though time was running out, they had to wait for the mother to be a safer distance away.

Creating a Plan

As they waited, the fishermen decided to work out a plan for how to get the babies out of the water. What was the best way to handle this situation? What would be the best way to put themselves and the cubs in the least amount of danger?

They had to approach the situation with caution, as anything could happen. While they were just babies, they were still wild baby bears.

Get it on Camera

Because the folks at home wouldn’t believe what these fisherman came across on a casual winter fishing outing.

Getting it all on camera was a good idea - it’s why we could write about this story! The fishermen filmed the entire interaction when the bears and boat met. Soon after, one of the bear cubs started to try to enter the boat on his own, reaching with his paws.

Needing Some Assistance

The ledge of the boat was much too high for the little one, and try as he may, he just couldn’t make it onto the boat himself, especially in his weakened state from treading water so long.

The fishermen thankfully began to set their plan into motion, using their fishing gear as a tool to grab hold of the bear.

The Right Kind of Plan

Eventually, one of the fishermen came up with a plan to use the fishing gear to latch onto the cubs and bring them on board.

Bears have incredibly sharp teeth and powerful mouth-gripping abilities. So instead of pulling the cub into the boat, the plan was to let the cub use his mouth as leverage to pull himself up onto the vessel.

Did it Work?

At first, it seemed like the plan would work, however the bear was still a bit too far from the boat landing to be able to pull his whole body up.

So even though the fishermen were worried about their own safety if they physically pulled the bear up, they also couldn’t just sit back and watch. It was a matter of life and death, and they decided that they had to intervene.

Trust and Trust Some More

If the fishermen reached too far over the edge they risked being pulled down by the bear, falling into the freezing water, or worse - being attacked and maimed

So what could they do? They decided to trust that the bear cubs would work with them to make sure the rescue went smoothly. The fisherman hoped that no one would get hurt.


There seemed to be an unspoken connection between the fishermen and the bear cub that got things moving.

Locking gazes and a moment of connection with this vulnerable life was all the fishermen needed to to accept the risk, reach down, and do all they could to save the bear cub.

A Bright Idea

And so another plan was put into action. Although it seems simple in retrospect at the time, with high stakes and adrenaline pumping, it is understandable that they didn’t try this sooner.

They used their fishing nets to try to scoop the bear out of the water - just like they would have done with regular fish if they hadn’t come across these stranded cubs.

Will it Work?

The biggest concern about this plan was the fact that the fishing nets were only designed to catch fish - not heavy baby bears. Despite this,they were willing to risk breaking the net if it gave them a chance to save the cubs, so they continued on with their plan.

Tossing the net into the ocean, they started with the first cub, trying to catch and reel it in with their own hands.Time was running out, and the cub was getting more tired.

Heavy Lifting

The first cub was caught in the net, and brought closer and closer until they eventually got it onto the boat! This was just the beginning, as they had to make sure the bears would not get hurt in the net. They also had to ensure that the cubs wouldn’t decide to use what little strength they had left to attack the fishermen.

Even though the fishermen had good intentions, the scared cubs might not know that and attack them out of fear.

Calming the Cubs

What were the men supposed to do, though? They had to try to calm the cub down enough to bring it safely onboard.

Pull and Pull and Pull

The fishermen soon realized just how heavy a baby cub was. They were at least grateful that these cubs were still young - imagine if it had been the momma bear stuck in the water!

Did you know that a fully grown bear can weigh up to 1,300 pounds?! That’s a lot of bear. There’s no way the fishermen could have supported one in their fishing net. While they were still cubs, they were heavier than normal because of their wet fur.

Just a Little Further

It was a good thing that these fishermen were used to tough conditions and situations in this cold climate, because pulling the fishing net with the first cub was a real struggle.  They had to dig deep both mentally and physically to help this animal.

After a good deal of time pulling and pulling, the cub eventually got close enough to the boat to climb onboard. The situation was finally starting to look up.

Welcome Aboard

So finally, it was a success! They managed to get the first cub on the vessel, but it wasn’t time to celebrate yet.  They still had another cub to save and time was running out.The second cub was treading water the whole time the first rescue had been taking place.

The second cub was further away from boat than the first one, so the fishermen had to try and get closer to get this one too.

Quiet Confidence

Since they had successfully rescued the first cub, the fishermen were feeling good about their chances of being able to save this one too.

But they had to do the work. Now that they had a successful method of extraction with the fishing net, he process seemed to go more smoothly than the first time to everyone’s relief.

Brother Bears Reunited

After mustering the strength to continue pulling, the fishermen managed to get this little guy on the boat as well. Now the fishermen felt just as tired as the bears after all of that hard work

With the two bear cubs safely on the boat, the fishermen were left with a big question. What do they do now?


The fishermen could finally take a moment to celebrate - a few high fives and cheers were shared between them. With the two cubs saved, they could breathe and prepare themselves for the next move.

We’re truly impressed with the fishermen’s ability to persevere and selflessly save these little ones.

Not all Happy

Though the cubs were safe from the imminent danger of drowning, they weren’t in the best shape. They were exhausted, cold, and wet. They were also confused and in totally new surroundings.

The poor little things were shaking out of fear and cold. This was likely the first contact they had ever had with humans. Cowering in the corner, these cubs were really missing their mother.

Fallen for Them

The fishermen really felt like they bonded with these little ones. Having such an intense journey had brought man and bear together, and seeing the bears  cold, alone, and in need of some comfort, it probably crossed the fishermen’s minds to keep them and comfort them.

However, they also knew that their mom would be close by, waiting to be reunited with her babies. They had to do the right thing.

Where to Take Them

Then it was the question of where should they take them? They had to find out where the mother bear had gone to. But did any of them remember where that was after all of the clamoring to save the cubs?

They searched for the particular spot on land where they saw the mother bear taking refuge.  After some time, one of the fishermen finally found it. They made their way to the shore, hoping that the mother bear would still be there.

Another Risky Move

This was the moment where everything would come together - either in a dangerous and scary way, or as a loving reunion. As the fishermen approached the shore, they were unsure of how the cubs and the mother bear would react.

Would she run at the boat and tear the men apart? Would the cubs trample the men to get to their mother? They had to be brave and do the right thing, so as they got closer, they braced themselves for whatever might happen.

Waiting Game

It was a little bit of an anti-climax, however, as the mother bear didn’t arrive when the men landed. They had a feeling she would be close by - maybe watching from behind the trees to see what the men would do.

They knew the next step though was to let the cubs go - soon the scent would lead them to momma. The fishermen carried the tired and weak cubs onto the land to deliver them to safety.

But wait, is she really not coming? Or is something happening in the other bank?

On the Shore

The fishermen were not sure what to do now. The mother bear didn’t seem as if she was going to meet her cubs, and they feared that the little cubs wouldn’t make it on their own in the cold and harsh weather.

The fishermen were not sure what to do when suddenly they saw some movement from the other bank. It seemed that the mother of the two cubs they saved had entered the water and started swimming towards them. But what could they do now?


The mother bear was swimming faster and faster, so the fisherman questioned why she wasn’t able to do this with her cubs. Maybe it was too hard for her to swim with two cubs, but now that she was swimming alone it might be possible for her to cross.

With every second passing the momma bear got closer to them. They were happy to see she was coming for her cubs. On the other hand, the fishermen were also scared to death by the thought of the mama bear approaching them first to take revenge for taking her cubs. They knew they just saved the lives of these baby cubs, but did mama bear think the same?

Coming to Meet Her

The fisherman did not want to endanger their own lives, so they left the cubs, went back to their boat and hoped for the best. They started the boat’s engine, and as they sailed away they kept an eye from afar on what was happening.  

When the mama bear was about to make it to shore to see her cubs, they peacefully sailed away. Looking at the shore, the men saw the mama bear reaching the shore and knew that she was not going to leave her cubs a second time.

Farewell Fury Friends

It was a sad goodbye. After all they had been through, and the bond that was created, the fishermen found it hard to leave the cubs on the shore and go back out into the waters.

They were happy that they did film the experience, now they could look back, and also show others what their fishing trip brought them. So it was time to say a final goodbye.

In the compassion and the giving selflessly to another being for the pure reason that we all deserve a chance to survive and live. The bravery and kindness of these fishermen is something we can all take away, and remember, in times of fear or when others need a helping hand, we all have the capacity to offer that.