Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch paused for a moment to feed the bears while on a recent fishing trip with family and friends.
Vander Esch, 26, who went to the Cowboys as a first-round draft pick in 2018, was spending some time with family and friends over the 4th of July holiday — and while out fishing, he took a moment to offer a fish to a wild bear that was standing in the water nearby — and he captured the entire exchange in an Instagram video.
The video showed Vander Esch grabbing a fish by the jaw and holding it out, tail first, toward the approaching bear. The bear, rising to its hind legs, slowly inched closer and closer to the pro-footballer, using a nearby rock for balance. Once it was able to reach, the bear gently took the fish in its teeth and turned away, apparently preferring to eat the gifted meal in private.
“Definitely a couple firsts this weekend. Not often you get to feed a wild bear and get a picture with two sturgeon in the same frame. Amazing weekend with family making memories that will last a lifetime! Thank you @killgoreadventures for an awesome trip,” Vander Esch captioned the snap.
“DUDE,” teammate Dalton Schultz replied.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones added, “Yeah, that’s wild.”
“That’s outstanding brother! Making memories!” rodeo athlete Tyson Durfey commented.
“[Dog] is one with nature!” Cowboys cornerback Donovan Olumba replied.
Several people attempted to rain on Vander Esch’s parade, however, accusing him of putting the bear in danger. They explained that feeding them in the wild like that could teach the bears to depend on humans for food. They also said that it could teach bears to trust humans — and that could put them at risk in the future, especially if any future interactions between the bear and humans might potentially include humans who were interested in big-game hunting.