Fans of the 2018 movie ‘Free Solo’ – the unflinching portrait of free soloist climber Alex Honnold – will be drawing many parallels with this plucky little bear. In an extraordinary display of laid-back parenting, this Mom bear is climbing a vertical cliff. The footage was captured by nature enthusiast, Stephanie Latimer, whilst she was kayaking in 2014 and has already been viewed more than 18 million times.
We learn from the video notes that we are watching a female endangered Mexican black bear and her cub. They are scaling the Santa Elena Canyon wall. This is the largest and arguably the most scenic canyon in Texas. It is located in Big Bend National Park which is on the US/Mexico border.
The video starts with Mom bear doing an expert job of climbing the sheer surface. She uses all four limbs to grip and is carefully choosing the best route. This, alone, is impressive enough but then we see baby bear following behind her!
The little bear clearly does not have the same expertise. At times, they seem to be completely stuck and are barely holding on – with both arms and legs splayed wide in desperation. Your heart is in your mouth as you watch on.
Even at this young age, the bay bear is clever enough to realize that they have made a mistake with their choice of route. So, they reverse and start again in another direction. This time, there are more rocks to get a grip of and they make it to the same narrow ledge that their Mom had found. Phew!
Mexican Black Bears
The Mexican black bears are a medium-sized bear that grow to a maximum of around 400 pounds. Their exact range is not known but they have been spotted in Sonora, Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango as well as Texas, USA. The Texas bears are assumed to have descended from the Nuevo Leon population. Even though they are endangered, there is some evidence that they are now increasing in numbers.
These bears live off nuts, berries, prickly pear, roots and insects. They may also eat small mammals. Mom bears typically have two or three cubs although this appears to be a lone cub. They remain with their mother until they are around 18 months. By this time, she is pregnant again. It looks like this cub already has many of the skills needed to make it alone.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.