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No Charges for 'Dummies' Who Handled Bear Cubs

Experts warn of the dangers of interacting with wildlife this way
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2024 12:09 PM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2024 6:00 AM CDT
UPDATE Apr 21, 2024 6:00 AM CDT

The people who were recorded removing two bear cubs from a tree in Asheville to take photos will not face charges, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) said Friday. FOX Carolina reports the commission released a statement that read in part, "While dangerous and unfortunate, it appears to be an isolated event. It is unlawful in NC to capture and keep black bears. However, the bear cubs were immediately released." The NCWRC added the group was spoken to "about the importance of leaving bear cubs alone." Only one of the two cubs was recovered; it's at a wildlife refuge in hopes it can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild later this year. Officials continue to watch the area for both the second cub and mother bear.

Apr 19, 2024 12:09 PM CDT

Bear cubs are certainly cute, but absolutely no one but experts should be handling them in the wild. Yet 6abc reports on a "bunch of dummies" in North Carolina who decided it would be fun to interact with a pair of baby bears for some selfies. CBS News reports that the incident in Asheville was recorded Tuesday by bystanders, showing a group of people gathered along a fence bordering an Asheville apartment complex, intrigued by a pair of bear cubs in a tree.

The clip shows a young woman reaching into the leaves and pulling out one of the bears, which she holds and takes a picture with before it escapes her arms and runs off, confused. "Put it back, it's scared!" one of the individuals recording the incident can be heard yelling at the group. Biologist Ashley Hobbs of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission was called to the scene and found the group still there, as well as one of the cubs, which was lethargic, limping, and running a low-grade fever. The other cub was nowhere to be found.

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Wildlife officials tell the News & Observer that one of the cubs broke free after it bit someone. "We did confront them ... and let them know how irresponsible and potentially deadly it could be for that cub to be separated from its mom, especially ripped out of a tree like that," Hobbs tells WLOS. Experts say that interacting with and touching a bear cub could invite a mauling from the mother bear, or could lead her to abandon the baby. Hobbs suggests that anyone coming across a bear cub call wildlife officials, even if the cub is hurt or sick. The found cub was transferred to a local wildlife refuge and will stay there until it's old enough to be released back into the wild as a subadult. (More bears stories.)

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