A video of a bear cub struggling to climb his way back up a steep and dangerous mountain to get back to his momma is going viral, but what appears at first as a heartwarming clip has a much darker message.
Many news outlets are sharing the video as an adorable scene of the cub’s herculean effort to get back to his mom, but the film, captured by a drone, has an irresponsible stunt that endangered the life of the cub. drones in the wild are posing to the animals they are filming.
Filmed in Magadan Region, Russia, the drone is initially a fair distance away from the mama and her cub. It films the pair traversing a dangerous cliff. The mama manages to get to the top, but her cub struggles to climb up.
At 1:15 in the video, the cub is almost at the top when the drone operator chooses to zoom in closer to film the cub’s almost-complete climb.
But it’s immediately clear the drone gets too close for comfort and angers the mother bear who reacts and sends her cub sliding precariously down the cliff.
Eventually, the little cub makes it back up to the top and he and his mama run into the forest.
The near fatal fall of the cub is extremely upsetting and something that should never have happened if the drone operator had been responsible.
The video points to the dangers humans introduce when they put the concerns of capturing an interesting shot over protecting the wildlife they’re filming.
Several viewers point out, “that’s the reason why in most of the national parks al over the world drones are banned and forbidden to use!”
“The mother bear was clearly scared about the presence of the drone and it even brought danger to the cub! if you can not judge this situation than you don’t deserve to fly a drone in these areas. Always respect the animals!,” wrote another.
“It’s a dangerous stunt by an irresponsible drone operator who should know better,” tweeted Dr Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist and assistant professor of climate science at the University of Maine.
“Harassing wildlife for a photograph, a selfie, or a video is never okay. Respect animals by giving them space, and don’t share posts where animals are clearly in distress or in danger just because someone wanted to go viral.”
She added, “Even if drones don’t cause a noticeable behavioural reaction they might affect animals physiologically (stress hormones, heart rate, etc).”
The video serves as a teachable moment to educate drone operators and the public about responsible drone usage, especially around wildlife.
It is also a reminder to spread the word about responsible drone usage and to report drone operators you see acting irresponsibly.
Many governments around the world now have help lines where you can report unsafe drone usage. For instance in Canada you can report incidents to Transport Canada and in the United States to the Federal Aviation Administration. The UK and Australia also have reporting forms.
If you or someone you know has a drone, there are a number of articles and resources that outline proper usage. A number of scientists have studied the effects of drones on wildlife and posted best practices on Current Biology, which can be read here.