A friend me called one blistery March day about a tiny bear cub that she saw sitting on the side of the Foothills Parkway, looking lethargic. I lived near the Parkway at the higher elevations at the time so I was the first person she thought of to call.
She proceded to describe the cub to me...very small, close to the road, apparently motherless, hungry, sleepy looking -- so before I left the house to meet her on the Parkway I called the emergency number for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and reported the cub to them. They said they would send someone to pick him up if I would keep an eye on him until they got there.
Sure enough, I found him at the appointed spot and he was exactly as she had described him.
My two-hour or so wait with the cub was accompanied by some heavy downpours. First, I coaxed the cub up into a nearby dead tree so that I could keep my eye on him. I didn't want him to run off with a rescue pending; although, I must admit, I kept scanning the surrounding area for the mother, you know, just in case she made a sudden appearance. (She didn't).
I had my camera with me so I took photos of the cub to amuse myself. And I distracted any cars that came by pointing my lens at some interesting object in the opposite direction, which they responded to by slowing down and scratching their head at this silly lady trying to do photography in the pouring rain. People in these parts predictably stop whenever a bear is sighted and I didn't want that to happen for the cub's sake.
The cub definitely wanted to come down that tree and clearly exhibited 'intentional' behavior in that regard. In response, I moved in closer whenever he looked longingly downward and I distanced myself from the tree whenever he climbed higher. At one point he even took a short snooze on a higher up limb of the tree.
Finally the ranger got there with a HAVE-A-HEART trap and food -- strawberry yogurt, peanuts, apple sauce -- all of which caused the cub to scramble down the tree to eye level with us to see what he could see, nose twitching.
The ranger put an enticing glob of food in a hollow part of the tree as I positioned myself to help steer the cub towards the booty. It was quite a struggle but the ranger was eventually able to grab him and put him safely in the trap for transport to a bear rescue facility in a neighboring locality.
Come to find out, he was last year's baby and weighed only 18 pounds at intake. He should have weighed 50-lbs by then, if not more. But, after six weeks at the rescue facility, yearling "Bear Parker" was released back to the wild at a normal weight along with some cousins who were at the facility with him.
The following photo essay shows the sequence of events that took place that day. ~Dr. Ellen