Video: Group seen pulling bear cub from tree to take pictures in North Carolina

A group of people in North Carolina were caught on camera pulling black bear cubs from a tree and taking pictures with one of the tiny animals, prompting a response from wildlife officials in the state about their "unnecessary and irresponsible actions."

The incident was reported on April 16 behind an apartment complex in Asheville, according to a statement from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). 

A video taken by bystander Rachel Staudt and shared by the agency shows the group of people standing near the bear cubs. One of the cubs is seen being pulled out of a tree and held while a woman proceeds to take photos with it. The young bear cub is then seen, alone, running away from the group.

"It was a horrible thing to do to an innocent baby animal," Staudt told Storyful.


The wildlife agency said it was contacted by the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department about the incident. Its staff arrived and were told both cubs had escaped after a cub bit one of the people, the NCWRC statement said. 

"One of the cubs was found later in a retention pond and taken to a licensed cub rehabilitation facility. The other has not been located," the wildlife agency said.

NCWRC’s BearWise Coordinator Ashley Hobbs captured one cub and noted that it was in poor condition. 

"The cub appeared to be lethargic and frightened," Hobbs said. "It looked to be favoring one of its front paws and was wet and shivering. The cub is now being cared for by a licensed and experienced cub rehabilitator with the goal of releasing it back into the wild later this year."  

The wildlife agency said the cub’s condition was "likely a result of the unnecessary and irresponsible actions of the people involved."


"Ashley and our enforcement staff searched the area for the second cub but did not locate it," said James Tomberlin, NCWRC’s mountain operations supervisor. "Our hope is it was able to reunite with the mother because it would not survive on its own at this young age."

This incident remains an active investigation, officials said. 

What to do if you find a bear cub alone

Around this time of year, mother bears are emerging from their den with cubs who are "experiencing the outside world for the first time and are very dependent on their mother to feed and protect them," the agency said. 

"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," Game Mammals and Surveys Supervisor Colleen 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."  

NCWRC wildlife biologists said that a bear cub seen alone is rarely orphaned or has been abandoned. The mother bear is often nearby foraging for food and will return in a few hours, or earlier. 

"Remaining in the area or attempting to catch the cub could inadvertently separate it from its mother and possibly injure the cub," the agency warned. 

Anyone who thinks they’ve found an orphaned bear cub should not attempt to capture it and instead should give the mother plenty of room and time to reconnect with her cub. They should also contact their local wildlife agency. 

"Do not handle it. Do not attempt to catch it. Do not remove it. Do not feed it," the agency said.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.