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Video shows people yank bear cubs from tree for selfie


State officials in North Carolina are investigating after a group of people were captured on video yanking black bear cubs from a tree to take a selfie.

The unsettling scene took place outside an Asheville apartment complex about 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network reported. The city is in the western portion of the state near the Tennessee state line.

It is illegal to disturb a bear den in North Carolina under state law.

If a den is disturbed by people, bears can be inadvertently exposed from their den and cubs can become orphaned or die, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, which is investigating this incident.

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The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating after four people were captured on video pulling bear cubs out of a tree in Asheville on April 16, 2024.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating after four people were captured on video pulling bear cubs out of a tree in Asheville on April 16, 2024.

Bear cub video shows woman screaming in excitement

Video obtained the USA TODAY Network shows four people, including what appears to be an older woman, trying to grab two black bear cubs, perched on a tree branch extending over a short fence to the apartment property. An older man with gray and white hair stands close by in a baseball cap watching the melee and does not intervene.

At one point, one of the woman successfully gets ahold of one cub, and screams in excitement.

After apparently taking pictures holding the cub, an animal shrieking noise is heard, and the bear drops to the ground. The cub then runs along the inside of the fence and tries to climb it as the woman chases after it.

According to a release from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, a bear cub bit one of the people during the interaction.

As of Friday, officials had not publicly identified the individuals involved.

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‘I tried telling them to stop’

Rachel Staudt, who lives in the apartment complex said she saw the scene and decided to record it.

“I tried telling them to stop, but they wouldn’t listen so I thought recording it might help get justice for the sweet bear cub,” Staudt said. “I’m not sure how long it went on for, but far too long.”

Staudt said it was not the first time she had seen the bear cubs in the complex, but said people usually “have enough common sense” not to bother them.

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Law enforcement called to scene

After recording the video, Staudt alerted maintenance for the apartment complex, which called law enforcement. The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office responded to the complex and then contacted the state wildlife commission.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating after four people were captured on video pulling bear cubs out of a tree in Asheville on April 16, 2024.The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating after four people were captured on video pulling bear cubs out of a tree in Asheville on April 16, 2024.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating after four people were captured on video pulling bear cubs out of a tree in Asheville on April 16, 2024.

Ashely Hobbs, a special projects biologist with the commission who responded to the scene, reported one bear cub was wet, cold and alone, sitting in a retention pond at the apartment complex. In a news release, Hobbs wrote the cub was “obviously a bit traumatized” and “favoring one of its front paws.”

Officials were not able to located the second cub, Hobbs said.

“Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because usually this time of year, moms will kind of stick their cubs in a safe place like a tree,” Hobbs said. “She’ll go and forage and then come back for them, which could be several hours later.”

On Wednesday, the cub was at the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge in Candler, one of two rehab facilities for bears in the state, Hobbs reported.

Apartment staff member warned residents of danger

A staff member was able to identify the apartment residents in the video, Hobbs said, adding she spoke with them to make sure “they didn’t bring the cub into the apartment or feed it.” She also said they had a stern conversation about how dangerous it is to interact with cubs – both for the animal and humans.

Had the mother bear been around, Hobbs said, she could have tried to protect her cubs, putting the people in danger. If an adult bear is in a position where it needs to defend itself, she added, it retroactively presents a danger to the bear.

‘All hoping to see mama bear roll up’

The video, which went viral this week, drew swift reaction from people on social media.

One reddit user posted the video and captioned it, “Terrorizing bear cubs for pictures….humanity lost!”

“Now this cub has to go to a rehab facility. These people should be footing that bill, at a minimum. Disgusting behavior,” another Reddit user posted in the comment section below a portion of the video.

“I think we were all hoping to see mama bear to roll up,” another user wrote.

“That’s why I cheer when animals eat humans,” one person posted on X.

Another X user wrote, “Wish Mama Bear would show up for one more pic.”

What do do if you come into contact with bear cubs

Biologists with commission say if someone encounters bear cubs or a den they should stay calm, quiet and leave the area as soon as possible.

Suspect a cub has been orphaned? Do not pick it up, experts say. Instead contact your local wildlife agency for help.

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on X @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bear cubs pulled from tree in North Carolina angers wildlife officials

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