Mother’s Love Crossing: Heartwarming Wildlife Scene Captures Grizzly’s Tender Guidance as Cub Braves the River’s Unknown Depths

(Courtesy of Yellowstone Video)

A momma grizzly bear showed some tough love when her cub got scared crossing a fast-flowing river after being chased off by bison.

Photographer Ron Sterbenz of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was visiting Yellowstone National Park in mid-May when he caught a fascinating interaction on film. A female grizzly bear and her cub, who had their eyes on a long-dead bison carcass, were chased off by a protective bison herd and had to cross three different sections of the confluence between the Soda Butte and Lamar rivers.

At the first crossing, the cub refused to swim and was swiftly ticked off by Mom. At the second, he was briefly swept away by fast-moving currents and howled in fear for his mother.

(Courtesy of Yellowstone Video)

“In certain areas, with spring runoff, it can be dangerous for the smaller animals,” Mr. Sterbenz, 56, told The Epoch Times. “I’m sure that cub has probably crossed the river a few times, but obviously wasn’t comfortable swimming. … maybe it had lost siblings.

“But what I also thought was weird was when the cub didn’t cross, Mom was pretty quick to scold. I thought it was pretty funny! It was pretty interesting. … if you watch the mom put her head down, that’s a very ‘pissed off’ feeling. … then you notice the cub’s submission.”

But when her cub was hooked by a current at the second crossing and howled for help, the mom swapped tough love for parental protection and swam to his side. The pair scrambled onto the riverbank together and shook their fur to dry off.

(Courtesy of Yellowstone Video)

(Courtesy of Yellowstone Video)

Mr. Sterbenz was still setting his camera up when the 30- to 40-strong bison herd began intimidating the grizzly mom and her cub. He tracked the pair with his camera and shared his incredible footage on YouTube.

“Most of the bears are born in January or February. They emerge from the den in about May, June,” Mr. Sterbenz said. “That cub you see in the video is older … it puts him at about 18 to 20 months, somewhere around there.”

The confluence of the Soda Butte and Lamar rivers creates a lot of sandbars and small tributaries, he said. Grizzlies will go back and forth across the water many times while foraging for food, tracking scent trails.

Mr. Sterbenz, who tracked the mom and cub for around 45 minutes, said: “They do a lot of foraging in that low, wet area, and I thought that’s what they were going to do. … then all of a sudden I hear the scream, and I look over, move the camera over, and there she is … crossing a larger portion of the Soda Butte.”

(Courtesy of Yellowstone Video)

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Mr. Sterbenz relocated to Minnesota 20 years ago and has been visiting Yellowstone every year with friends for over a decade. While he is not a trained biologist, he is fascinated by animal behavior and shares his footage on social media to glean insights from viewers who know more than he does.

“I don’t interfere … I don’t intervene,” he said. “What I find fascinating is watching the behavior, you know; watching an animal hunt, watching an animal get born, watching the mating, watching how a mother reacts to cubs, the difference between black bears and grizzlies, wolf pack interactions.”

Mr. Sterbenz likes that his footage can show “the complexity of the animal,” and help dispel misconceptions that grizzly bears are simply “aggressive, killers, or not peaceful.” Photography is not his main vocation; he works in tech for one of the largest cloud providers. Yellowstone is a welcome retreat.

“It’s a forced disconnect when you’re there,” he said. “There is no cell phone, there is no internet, so it makes it really nice.”