Too much to bear: The cold truth behind a 'heartwarming' viral video
Experts condemn drone operator who scared bear and cub into the life-threatening drama that has gripped the world
A video clip showing the heartwarming triumph over adversity of a baby brown bear on the side of a steep snowy mountain captured the imagination of millions across the globe.
In a two-and-a-half minute film, a young cub slides helplessly down a near-vertical drop, flailing on its way down as its mother stands by, powerless.
As the cub makes its way back up to the lip of the ridge, the camera zooms in, causing the mother to swipe at her baby and it plunges much further down onto some rocks below.
In an epic struggle, the youngster clambers its way back to the top of the mountain and scampers off with its mother, leaving many heart-in-mouth viewers relieved.
But behind the soul-stirring footage a more sinister subplot has emerged as to why the bears were struggling across the dangerous ridge in the first place.
Experts from the US have blamed a rogue drone operator for scaring the mother and her cub into taking a perilous path that could have cost the young bear its life, saying: “There’s no reason a female would normally accept that risk, unless they were forced into it.”
The provenance of the video has not been verified, but it is believed to have been shot in on June 19 in the Magadan region of Russia.
While clearly filmed from a drone, it is not known who was operating the machine or from where it was being controlled.
“It doesn’t matter how far away it was, because I can tell from the bears’ behaviour that it was too close,” said Clayton Lamb, a scholar from the University of Alberta, who studies bears and uses drones to map their territory in the Canadian Rockies.
“There’s no reason a female would normally accept that risk, unless they were forced into it,” he told The Atlantic.
Sophie Gilbert, an ecologist at the University of Idaho, added: “It showed a pretty stark lack of understanding from the drone operator of the effects that his actions were having on the bears.”
Some drone operators were dismayed by the footage. “As a drone pilot this footage makes me angry,” said Jonathan Eugster.
“Did you see the momma bear lash out as the cub was almost up at 1:19? Got to think the rapidly approaching aerial contraption wasn’t helping. Pilots should think about how they affect and potentially harm what they observe.”
Vicki Felmlee, from Colorado, said: “As an FAA drone operator, there are strict rules and many state laws about harassing wildlife in any way, including drones. Completely bad bad bad on the drone operator. No reason to have got in so close, none at all.”
Ziya Tong, who posted the video on Twitter, is an English-born Canadian TV presenter who used to host the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet show. She urged people to have more awareness around filming animals in the wild.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited