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A video shows people trying to pull 2 black bear cubs from trees in North Carolina

A black bear cub is pictured at Triple D Game Farm in Kalispell, Mont., in 2005.
A black bear cub is pictured at Triple D Game Farm in Kalispell, Mont., in 2005.

Wildlife experts are warning people not to get close to black bears after a video earlier this week showed people in western North Carolina attempting to grab two bear cubs from a tree.

The incident took place outside an apartment complex in Buncombe County and was captured on video on Tuesday.

In the video, posted by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, several people attempt to pull two black bears from a low-hanging branch. One person manages to grab a cub and appears to pose with the wild animal for a photograph. After yelling out, the person drops the cub and the animal is seen running along a fence as the person chases after it.

Rachel Staudt, a resident of the apartment complex where the event took place, told theAsheville Citizen-Times that she decided to start recording the episode after asking the other residents to stop pulling at the cubs in the tree.

Ashley Hobbs, a biologist for the NCWRC and coordinator for BearWise, a nationwide education program to help people co-exist safely with black bears, told NPR that the cub seen running along the fence in the video was found wet and shivering in a retention pond near the apartment complex. The NCWRC news release said the other bear shown in the video has not been located.

The found cub was brought to an NCWRC rehabilitation facility and Hobbs told NPR the bear is now "doing excellent." She said it's eating and drinking well and that after NCWRC staff were able to do a full evaluation of the cub, they didn't find any lasting injuries from the encounter.

That being said, Hobbs warns that the incident isn't without consequences. "We want wild bears to stay wild," she said.

The rescued cub will be raised in captivity before being released into the wild in the fall

Raising wildlife in captivity can cause stress to animals and sometimes rehabilitation facilities are unable to mimic the conditions and care animals are accustomed to in their natural environments, said Hobbs. For their safety and preservation, Hobbs says raising cubs in captivity is avoided whenever possible.

Black bear cubs usually stay with their mothers for about 18 months, according to the National Park Service. The cubs seen in Newcombe County were only a couple of months old, said Hobbs.

"They are still reliant on their mother for milk" at that age, she added.

Because the cub was removed from the tree and couldn't be reunited with its mother, it will need to be raised at the NCWRC rehabilitation facility before it can be released into the mountains of western North Carolina when it's fully weaned in the fall, Hobbs said.

What to do if you encounter a black bear cub

A female Baribal American black bear and her newborn cub stroll through their enclosure at the Planete Sauvage zoological park in Port-Saint-Pere, near Nantes, western France, on May 3, 2019.
Loic Venance / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
A female Baribal American black bear and her newborn cub stroll through their enclosure at the Planete Sauvage zoological park in Port-Saint-Pere, near Nantes, western France, on May 3, 2019.

It's common for female black bears to leave their young in safe areas while they look for food. "She'll forage for a few hours and she'll come back and pick them up," Hobbs said.

She also said it's normal to see more black bears in the springtime when they're more active than in the winter when they hibernate in North Carolina.

For that reason, Hobbs warns that if you see a cub alone in a brush pile or even on your back porch, it doesn't mean it's actually in danger or in need of help. "Most of the time, that's not the case. So if you see a cub alone, it's not necessarily a bad thing. And that's why it's good to give them lots of space."

If you see a cub, Hobbs recognizes it can be tempting to approach them because they are some of the "cutest little animals you'll ever find." But she warns, "you should never approach or try to handle a black bear cub."

It's dangerous for the cub because you could accidentally injure it while handling it or put it at risk of being orphaned or separated from its mother.

Hobbs said interacting with cubs can also put people at risk. According to BearWise, black bears rarely become aggressive. But, Hobbs said, they will harm a person if they feel the need to defend their food or offspring.

If you encounter a black bear cub, give them lots of space, "back up and go in the opposite direction."

If you feel tempted to take a photograph, only to do so from a distance. "We have zoom on our cameras nowadays. Definitely use the zoom if you want to take a picture," Hobbs said.

Commission spokesperson Anna Gurney toldThe Associated Press in an email on Friday that no charges would be filed against the people who disturbed the cubs.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Clare Marie Schneider
Clare Marie Schneider is an associate producer for Life Kit.
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