If you’re a bear cub, this seems like a pretty cushy way to travel.
Footage shot at southwestern Alaska’s Wood-Tikchik State Park shows a mother grizzly swimming across a large lake with two cubs perched atop her back.
Park employee David Roseman, who took the video, told National Geographic this is the first time he’s seen a mother bear ferrying her cubs in the water in the 21 years he’s worked there. He said she was swimming about 400 yards from a small island in the middle of the lake to the shore.
The mother bear’s behavior when she gets to shore suggests that she was frightened by Roseman’s boat and was trying to get away from it, according to NatGeo.
And grizzly bears are excellent swimmers. Their remarkable aquatic abilities even caused somewhat of a panic last year when grizzlies started showing up and “colonizing” small islands in British Columbia, where they had previously been unseen.
The cubs in Roseman’s footage will probably start learning to swim on their own once they get up to about 30 pounds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wayne Kasworm told National Geographic.
Sadly, the video comes at a perilous time for grizzlies in the United States. In April, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that makes it legal for hunters in Alaska to kill hibernating bears.
And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last month that grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park would be removed from the endangered species list after four decades of receiving federal protection. In part, that’s good news, because it reflects the fact that the population has rebounded from only 136 bears in 1975, to around 700 today.
But conservationists and advocates for the bears fear that stripping the animals of protection now could have devastating consequences and open the door for hunting them outside the borders of the park.
On Friday, a group of conservation nonprofits, along with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, said they would sue the Trump administration if the government does not reverse the decision to remove protection for the Yellowstone grizzlies.