Zoom Image

Black bear in Monterrey in search of water and food (archive image)


Breathing heavily, but also completely motionless and concentrated, Silvia Macías sits on a wooden bench on Monday. She holds her son Santiago in her arms and has her right hand over his eyes.

Tacos, salsa, fries and enchiladas are spread out on the table in front of them – Santiago celebrates his 15th birthday on this day in Chipinque Park near the Mexican city of Monterrey.

"We heard him humming, he eating"

But there's something else: a bear sits between the can of Coke and the drinking cup and helps itself to the food. Just a few centimeters away. Once he briefly sniffs the people and then devotes himself again to his picnic. "The bear was very close to us," says the mother in an interview with the AP news agency, "we heard how he hummed, how he ate, you could smell the bear. He was really, really close."

Macías kept her eyes lowered and kept silent to avoid any provocation from the bear. She was most worried about her son, who has Down syndrome. "Santiago is very afraid of animals, cats or dogs, every animal scares him." Because she wanted to prevent the boy from seeing the bear, she covered his eyes. "I didn't want him to scream or run away," she said. Then the bear could have been frightened and reacted.

The scene was filmed by an acquaintance of the two, Angela Chapas, who knew that there is one thing you never do when you encounter a black bear: run away.

Because the appearance of bears in the park is not uncommon, Macías and Chapa had agreed in advance of the excursion on what to do if they met one: "We will play a game in which we cover Santiago's eyes and pretend to be statues," according to the plan.

Santiago later explained that he was very afraid. As for the bear's culinary preferences, he seemed to prefer french fries and salsa. When Macías finally threw away a plate of enchiladas, the animal followed the food. Angela Chapa then stood protectively in front of mother and son, so that they could slowly withdraw. The bear then disappeared.

The mother's stoic and brave behavior made headlines. She does not consider herself a heroine. "I think I'm just a mother who defended her cub."

»Bear hunger« in Japan

While the black bear was able to satisfy its hunger in Mexico by crossing the borders of civilization, brown bears in northern Japan are currently in a difficult position: On the Shiretoko Peninsula on the northeastern tip of the island of Hokkaido, eight out of ten bear cubs born this year are said to have died of starvation. This is due to a declining salmon population due to the excessively high water temperatures caused by the climate crisis.

An estimated 500 brown bears live on the peninsula. Experts said the sea surface temperature off Hokkaido had risen to over 20 degrees from mid-July to early August – five degrees more than last year.