WATCH: Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch Hand-Feeds a Wild Bear

by Amy Myers

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch risked his money-makers by hand-feeding a wild brown bear during his visit to Idaho’s Hells Canyon. The 26-year-old spent the holiday weekend exploring the state’s glassy waters, taking time to admire the wildlife that lives there. What fans didn’t expect, though, was for Vander Esch to get quite so close.

On Instagram, the Cowboys linebacker posted a few snippets of his most recent adventure, the first of which featured his close encounter with the furry kind.

“Definitely a couple firsts this weekend,” Vander Esch shared. “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.”

In the clip, Leighton Vander Esch holds a fresh trout in his hand and extends it to the bear, which quickly reaches up to receive it. Sure enough, the animal gently takes the fish from the famed linebacker, seemingly having no interest in the extremity attached to the scaly snack.

The brown bear appears to be a juvenile which is why it may be more willing to wander closer to humans with treats in hand.

While Vander Esch’s interaction with the bear may be tempting to replicate, Outsider stresses that no one should approach an animal in the wild, especially with food in hand.

Leighton Vander Esch Poses with Two Massive Sturgeon

Feeding the bear was just one of the many exciting moments that Leighton Vander Esch experienced during his trip up north.

Also in the linebacker’s post was a photo of himself with a giant sturgeon in his hands. Beside him, a fellow angler held an even bigger catch that required an extra person to show its incredible length.

It’s hard to say which he was more excited about – feeding the brown bear or posing with such a massive fish. Either way, though, it seems that the Cowboys’ linebacker had a blast on his 4th of July getaway.

Cowboys Fans Have Mixed Views of Wild Encounter with Bear

Meanwhile, fans of Vander Esch were just as invested in his adventures. Some were happy that the linebacker got in touch with his wild side, but others worried his actions would teach the bear some dangerous habits.

“Just casually gifting a fish to a grizz,” one fan said, though the animal was technically a brown bear.

“Epic 4th of July weekend,” gushed another.

“That is terrible,” argued a different follower. “Big fan, but think. Think of the river guides who camp on those beaches and have to deal with those slightly domesticated bears… Fed bear, Dead bear.”

Another agreed, “Dude – this is why bears attack humans. You’re not supposed to interact with a wild bear like this!”