Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph Blog A Black Bear Cub Rescue — Up Close! – Dr. Ellen's Blog

A Black Bear Cub Rescue — Up Close!

Posted on August 29, 2012 By

A friend called me one blistery March day about a tiny bear cub that was sitting on the side of the Foothills Parkway in East Tennesse, looking quite lethargic. I lived at the time at the higher elevations in Blount County, TN and was close by, plus she figured I would know, if anyone would, what to do for him.

She described the cub to me on the phone...very small, close to the road, alone, apparently motherless, hungry, sleepy looking…so before I left the house to meet her up on the Parkway I called the emergency number for the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park and reported the cub to them. They said they would send someone to pick him up so I agreed to go and wait for them with the cub.

About four miles down the Parkway I spotted him, and he was just exactly as my friend had described him. He was on the side of the road, foraging for something, anything, to eat. The friend had to leave at that point and so I took over.

My wait turned out to be a little over two hours in blistery weather and occasional downpours, but still I waited. I first 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 so that he couldn’t be found, although I did keep scanning the surrounding area for the mother, you know, just in case she made a sudden appearance. (She didn’t).

Had the cub panicked and gone down the slippery mountain slope where he came from, this rescue effort would have failed.

The cub climbed up and down and all around that tree during those two long hours, and once he even got down and briefly moved around the base of the tree, looking in vain for something to eat. But when I moved closer in he skedaddled right back up the tree for safety, which pleased me. I really don’t think he had enough strength to put up very much of a fuss and, at one point, he even snoozed while sitting on a limb high above me.

And me? Well, besides being quite wet, I had my camera with me so I kept my eye on the cub and took pictures of him, and distracted the few cars traveling along the Parkway so that they would not notice the cub and scare him away. I am sure they wondered about this woman who was standing along side the road, in a downpour with raincoat and camera, and pointing it at birds in the sky that they could not see.

Finally the ranger got there with a large HAVEAHEART trap and food — strawberry yogurt, peanuts, apple sauce — the smells of which caused the cub to immediately climb down the tree to eye level with us. His hunger dominated.

While I distracted the cub the ranger put some of the food in a hollow part of that dead tree to entice him — and then grabbed him as the cub poked his head deep down into the hollow filled with food.  It was a bit of a struggle but the ranger expertly got the better of him and managed to put him safely in the trap for transport to the Appalachian Bear Rescue facility in nearby Townsend, TN.

By then my heart was beating palpably because, despite his size,  this little black bear cub put up the fight of his life!

Come to find out, he was last year’s baby and weighed only 18 pounds that day at intake! But after six short weeks at the rescue facility “Cub #178” was released at a more healthy weight of 50-lbs, along with some cousins who were also at the rescue facility with him.

The following photos show the sequence of events that took place the day that he was rescued:

Every year cubs like this one are orphaned, injured or in need of medical care. Tourists in the national park come upon them and locals, too, as in the case above. Sometimes their mothers are hit by cars and left for dead in the road.

Wildlife biologists from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park pick them up if the needy cub is in their jurisdiction; otherwise TWRA biologists (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) pick them up  — but in every case they are brought to Appalachian Bear Rescue for rehabilitative care.

How to report a needy cub? The best bet is to contact the local sheriff’s office that will take it from there, for they are experienced in handling these kinds of wildlife-related calls in the Smokies.

Above all, strive to be ‘bear-wise’ so that you can respond appropriately to situations involving bears.They need our help!

To learn more about APPALACHIAN BEAR RESCUE go to www.abrTN.org. ABR is a one-of-a-kind rescue and rehabilitation facility that is located just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend, TN. This nonprofit, tax-exempt organization has been returning black bears to the wild since 1996. There are only four such black bear rehabilitation centers in the United States.

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