It’s a video that’s been viewed over half a million times in the last week: harrowing footage of a bear cub desperately scaling a near-vertical, snow-covered cliff in order to reach his mother waiting at the top.
Maybe you’ve even shared this clip yourself, marveling at the perseverance of the cub and the wonder of mother nature in this untouched wilderness.
But experts are telling another side to the story, stating that the bear only led her baby up this dangerous terrain in a panicked effort to get away from the drone that was filming them.
In one of the most heart-stopping moments of the video, the cub nears the top of the cliff, coming within inches of safety. At that point, the camera zooms in – which means the drone got closer. You can see the mother looking directly into the camera before lunging towards the drone and swiping for her cub, after which her tired baby loses grip and slides down the precarious slope.
Both animal behavior professionals and expert drone pilots claim that the bear was trying to protect her baby from the approaching drone.
“It showed a pretty stark lack of understanding from the drone operator of the effects that his actions were having on the bears,” said Sophie Gilbert, an ecologist at the University of Idaho who studies the effects of drones on wildlife.
Very little is known about the drone footage and who filmed it; only that it was shot earlier this year in Russia.
This is yet another case of overzealous and careless human interest affecting and endangering animals. In September, a moose died in Vermont after crowds of people wanting photos scared the exhausted animal back into a lake, where it drowned.
We don’t begrudge people for having an innate curiosity about the natural world, because it is a wonderful thing to behold; however, we encourage anybody who comes across wild animals to appreciate them from a distance and do everything possible to minimize your impact.