Group captured on video yanking bear cubs from trees for selfies

Officials are reminding people not to mess with wildlife after a disturbing scene unfolded in North Carolina. A group of people was caught on video messing with very young black bear cubs in an attempt to get photos.

Rachel Staudt, who recorded the video of the incident outside an Asheville apartment complex, said the group started taking pictures of the cubs after pulling one out of the tree. "It was a horrible thing to do to an innocent baby animal," Staudt told Storyful.

The group can be seen repeatedly attempting to yank the cubs from the tree, then holding one of the bears and taking a selfie.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has been rehabilitating and releasing bear cubs for decades. It was notified of the incident and immediately went to the location.

"NCWRC staff arrived and were told both cubs had escaped after a cub bit one of the people. One of the cubs was found later in a retention pond and taken to a licensed cub rehabilitation facility," the commission said in a Facebook post detailing what happened.

NCWRC's BearWise® Coordinator Ashley Hobbs, who captured the cub, noted that it was in poor condition. "The cub appeared to be lethargic and frightened. It looked to be favoring one of its front paws and was wet and shivering," she said in an NCWRC statement.

(Photo credit: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission)

Game Mammals and Surveys Supervisor Colleen Olfenbuttel said the cub's condition is likely a result of the actions of the people involved. The NCWRC said it followed up with the people who pulled the bear out of the tree and let them know how irresponsible and potentially deadly it could be for that cub to be separated from its mom.

"While it may seem obvious to most people, always remember one of the BearWise® Basics, which is not to approach or try to take selfies with black bears, whether they are cubs or adults. It often does not end well for people or the bear, as we saw in this incident," said Olfenbuttel.

The commission has searched the area for the second cub but couldn't find it. "Our hope is it was able to reunite with the mother because it would not survive on its own at this young age," said Mountain Operations Supervisor James Tomberlin.

"This time of year, mother bears are emerging from their den with their cubs that are experiencing the outside world for the first time and are very dependent on their mother to feed and protect them. 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," Olfenbuttel explained. "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."

Visit the NCWRC blog to learn more about the black bear cub rehabilitation program.