Fishermen rescue a bear cub from river: Video captures adventure

Mike Polocz, of Soldotna, was hoping to commune with nature when he made the decision to float the upper Kenai River last weekend. He never expected his commune to be such an intense experience.

“I’ve been on many fishing and hunting trips in my life and I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he said.

Polocz, owner of Alaska H20s Pros, was hoping for a fun weekend away from work, but with the bag limit for sockeye salmon being liberalized to double the normal harvest, he wasn’t interested in being among the big crowds of combat fishermen that had come to catch them. He wanted to do something a little less stressful and more serene, so he decided to target trout with his son and a family friend.

“We had put in at Jim’s Landing, and had just gotten through the final set of rapids when we noticed a brown bear sow and her cubs fishing for reds,” Polocz said. “As we got a closer look, though, one of the cubs wasn’t fishing. It was stuck in a whirlpool and drowning.”

The mama bruin — which Polocz said was a behemoth of a bear — wasn’t far away, but he said he felt compelled to help the cub. It looked to be about 4 to 6 months old, less than 50 pounds, cinnamon-colored and was shrieking an ear-splitting, teeth-grinding, terror-stricken racket as it swirled in the foaming whitewater just yards away from his boat.

“I was so close I could look into its eyes and they were wide open and filled with just sheer terror. I couldn’t watch this defenseless animal suffer. I was ready to go in after it if it went under,” he said.

But the bear did not fully submerge. Instead, with his son steering the boat, Polocz used the rim of a landing net to try to push the cub out of the current holding it in place. This, however, was more difficult that it seemed, due to the tiny bruin’s desperation.

“He was so physically exhausted and distressed that when I put the net near him, he tried to climb into it. I wanted to save him, but I didn’t want that. If it got in the net, I knew we would have to get him in the boat and possibly commit to physically putting him on shore, and that seemed way too risky,” he said.

For about 10 to 15 minutes, Polocz did his best to push and prod the cub to the safety of slower-moving water. Just as it seemed the cub was on the verge of complete exhaustion, Polocz got in a lucky poke.

“I gave him one last nudge with the net and he broke out of the eddy,” he said.

The cub wearily paddled to shore and climbed out of the water. Once on dry land it gave out another loud cry. The sow locked onto the sound and came crashing through the woods to reunite with her offspring. Polocz said it was an emotional moment for everyone watching.

“There were three pretty tough guys in the boat, and there wasn’t a dry eye among us,” he said.

What particularly moved Polocz was how serendipitous it was that the whole incident transpired when it did.

“I’ve never been on that river and not seen several boats, but we were the only people on the water that day. We didn’t see another person, and I honestly think if we had come by five minutes earlier we wouldn’t have seen a thing, and had we come by five minutes later, that cub would have been drowned,” he said.

Polocz’s friend captured much of the incident on his iPhone, but it cut out just before they finally got the bear to safety. Still, they uploaded what they had to YouTube, and he said the footage they got is an amazing reminder of a float trip none of them will ever forget.

As to what the bear may have taken away from the incident, Polocz said he hopes it learned to steer clear of that particular area.

“I’d like to think he’ll be eating berries, rather than fish, at least for a while,” he said.
VIDEO Kenai River Bear Cub Rescue

Responses to "Bear cub saved from river — Fisherman pushes cub out of eddy, back to mama"

  1. isabell says:

    verry good job, guys ! and what an experience ! I'm really happy you share this and a litle bit jalous ;) call me next time you go to fish bear on a WE !I surely come ! ;)

  2. Aisling says:

    Great rescue! Lucky little cub.

  3. Linda says:

    Good job guys. I'm sure he will never forget you.

  4. Phoenix says:

    Good work! They did what needed doing without undue personal contact with the little guy, which might have triggered problems with the sow. Karma was hard at work that day ;-)

  5. Anonymous says:

    AWESOME, Great Work, Thanks for being in the right place at the right time , with the right moves!!! Thanks for giving back to the wild, something more of us could learn!!!!

  6. Unknown says:

    You are good people. Thank you for saving the little fella.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Very slow decision making guy's.
    I guess you were Scared, of
    Thank God he did not Drowned

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. Anonymous says:

    Just watched this amazin video I believe in karma yu people were there for a reason too save this little bear cub yure wonderfull and it was a relief too know the little bear cub was saved by yu and back wiv his mama thankyou.

  10. Unknown says:

    Good to see people care about our beautiful animals! From Australia...

  11. BRUGE says:

    Thanks so much guys..Gd bless you every single and each day <3, after seeing so many disgusting people in this life this is like a connection with humanity again

  12. Anonymous says:

    I didn't see the bear get out, and what the hell are you doing in that kind of water without a motor?

  13. Anonymous says:

    He finally made it . I know those little guys can be feisty especially when scared, but couldn't they let him get into the net and drag him over to the shore or close to it? Long handle on the net so I don't think he could work his way up to the boat. Might wreck the net but what the hell, would beat watching him drown. Anyway, all turned out well. You are good people.

  14. Anonymous says:

    OMG! What a nail biter! Thanks guys you have good hearts :)

  15. Unknown says:

    Hard to type through the tears, bless you for this! It's so wonderful that you were placed where you were at that perfect moment. Poor little guy.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I'm amazed at what a lot of kind hearted people will do to help animals in need of help. Lucky for the lil bear you guys were there just at the right time.

  17. Anonymous says:

    did you notice the sound the sound the bear is making sounds like he is yelling the word 'bear' !

  18. You guys got tons of karma points for this. Thanks for sticking to it and saving the cubs life.

  19. Mep says:

    Your colors must be gold...This is a true testament to respecting life and giving a hand to save. Thank you for your hard work, big hearts and not giving up. I have never heard a bear cry. It is heartbreaking for sure. I would have done the same. Thank you! You are fantastic people.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous says : I thank God you were there to help the cub < I never saw the cub get out of the water and reunited with his mom . I wish the video would have showed that part . I felt so bad for the cub he was scared and I could tell he was exhausted. I really hope he made it okay.

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