Group yanks bear cubs from tree for photos, NC video shows. Why won’t they be charged?

A group yanked bear cubs from a tree to take photos with them — and no one will be charged, North Carolina officials said.

A video taken April 16 at an apartment complex in the popular mountain town of Asheville shows people reaching for two baby bears on tree branches. Someone can be seen holding one of the cubs and posing for pictures with it, McClatchy News reported.

The bears later ran off, and a state wildlife official condemned the group’s “unnecessary and irresponsible actions.” So, why isn’t anyone being charged? Here’s what we know.

Why won’t charges be filed?

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said that while the incident was “dangerous and unfortunate,” its investigators believe it was “isolated.”

“It is unlawful in NC to capture and keep black bears,” the commission wrote April 23 in an emailed statement to McClatchy News. “However, the bear cubs were immediately released, and officers have determined there will be no charges filed.”

Per state law, a person who “unlawfully takes, possesses, transports, sells, possesses for sale, or buys any bear or bear part” can be accused of a misdemeanor.

“There’s not a time frame on possession. Looking at it, it’s unlawful for people to catch a bear — capture a bear — and then keep it” in a home, vehicle or other enclosure where its movements are restricted, Branden Jones, captain of support services for the commission’s law enforcement division, told McClatchy News in a phone interview.

During their investigation, Jones said the commission determined the person seen posing with the bear held it for a few seconds. Officials also reportedly spoke “with the individuals involved about the importance of leaving bear cubs alone.” The case is now closed.

What happened to the NC bears?

After the video was taken, one of the cubs was found scared, wet and favoring one of its paws, possibly due to the “unnecessary and irresponsible actions of the people involved,” Colleen Olfenbuttel, game mammals and surveys supervisor, said in an April 18 news release.

As of April 23, that cub remained at a rehabilitation center as officials say they continue to look out for the second bear pulled from the tree. People are urged to stay away from the animals, which live in the eastern and western parts of North Carolina.

“A bear cub seen alone is rarely orphaned or been abandoned,” the commission wrote. “Often the mother bear is nearby foraging for food and will return in a few hours, or earlier.”

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