When bears stray onto ranches and farms to look for their next meal, it's usually a recipe for human-wildlife conflict. But over at California's Tejon Ranch Conservancy, it seems humans and bears have a common goal. 

Camera traps set up by conservancy biologist Ben Teton recently captured a few short but intense seconds of footage showing a female black bear on the hunt. The cameras form part of a long-term study of invasive wild pigs at the ranch, and while watching the hunt unfold makes for some grim viewing (we strongly advise sensitive viewers to give it a miss), for biologists like Tenton, the encounter holds important lessons about native ecology.

The bear can be seen pursuing a group of wild piglets that had been wallowing in a nearby stream. The animals' distress calls quickly alert the lead sow, the matriarch of the group, who then attempts to fight off the bear in order to save the young.

"It is unclear if [the sow] was successful in this rescue attempt, but it is important to appreciate how valuable a kill like that would be for the bear, particularly during the dry summer months when food is scarce," says the Tejon Ranch team in a Facebook update.

While black bear diets lean strongly towards the vegetarian, these opportunistic eaters will occasionally go after prey like young deer or moose calves. Catching them mid-hunt, however, is rare. "It is extremely rare to capture a predation event of any kind within the small frame of a trap camera, and an event as dramatic and illuminating as this is almost unheard of," says the team.

Tejon Ranch is home to an array of wildlife, including some threatened and protected species, but its herds of invasive wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are having a detrimental effect on local ecosystems. The animals likely found their way here decades ago from a neighbouring farm, and have been multiplying ever since.  

"We typically use social media to promote the beauty and majesty of our local California wildlife and have been reluctant to post such a potentially disturbing video that so explicitly reveals this predator-prey relationship in action," adds the team. "However, we think it is important to appreciate the full reality, both light and dark."


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