The conventional view of mother bears with cubs is that they are dangerous and should be strenuously avoided, because anyone who gets too close is likely to be attacked and perhaps killed.
Nevertheless, a California man claims he was observing a mother bear with cubs in a forest area north of Sacramento, when a mountain lion snuck up behind him and pounced. He was trying to fend off the mountain lion by hitting it with a rock and resisting, when he said the mother bear came over and then pushed the large cat off. Then the two large predators fought a bit, before parting.
The California Dept. of Fish and Game said they can’t substantiate the man’s story. One of their game wardens evaluated physical evidence and said he couldn’t find any clothing tears or injuries which are consistent with other mountain lion attacks.
Also, it was reported the man has claimed to have been attacked by mountain lions three times previously, with none of them officially documented. He also said he touched a bear cub’s paw while the mother was watching. The Dept. of Fish and Game is testing blood on his backpack to see if it came from a mountain lion. They haven’t issued any warnings about possible animal attacks, because the story hasn’t been confirmed.
A man who was hiking in Yellowstone National Park with his wife was attacked and killed by a mother bear with cubs in 2011. Initially the couple saw the female grizzly when it was about 100 yards away. They tried to run, but the bear closed the distance quickly and attacked the man. This incident was confirmed by the Forest and Wildlife Service in a report.
The California man’s story is not about a grizzly bear, it references a black bear. This species is generally not as aggressive, but its mother bears will still defend their cubs, so it seems extremely unlikely the man would be able to get so close to a wild bear cub with the mother present. If the story is untrue, it might actually be dangerous if it misinforms someone to the point they approach a mother bear in the wild in order to view or photograph the cubs. This kind of behavior is likely to result in loss of life for people and possibly the bears, if the mother bear is killed by park officials after being deemed a threat or nuisance.
Image Credit: FWS, public domain