“That’s Athena and Hercules. Athena is the mom; Hercules is the cub. The cub is two years old, and it’s hard to see in that picture, but he only has three legs, so he’s missing his hind paw. He just had kind of a little nub. Watching these bears was simply amazing. We were not expecting to see a cub with three legs, let alone a healthy cub with three legs. This cub survived long enough that the wound healed, and he has learned to live with it. He was a lot more comfortable in the water than he was on land because he didn’t need that leg; that was just his rudder and he could do just as well with just the nub and his other foot. So in the water, he was just a regular bear.
“He was really vocal. I’ve never seen a bear as loud as that one. As they approached, you could hear him coming because he was just like, ‘nggrrhh! nggrhhh!’ It sounded like he was saying, “Moooommmm!” non-stop at literally everything. The mom was so accommodating of his condition. As soon as another bear showed up, even if it was a bear twice her size, she lunged right at it and scared it off.
“I love this picture because I feel like moms and cubs have the same relationship we have with our moms. You know, you love each other, of course, but sometimes you get on each other’s nerves! This bear was so attached to his mom. His disability built their relationship so much stronger and he really copied everything she did. This scene, where she’s lying down covering her face, and he’s doing the same thing and they’re not even looking at each other, just shows the strong bond between them. I love that you can really visually see how connected they are.
“I would have loved to track this bear just to see where he is now. It’s one of those thoughts I have at 2:00 in the morning; I wake up and wonder if something’s happened to him.”