Four small cubs call Appalachian Bear Rescue home
By Iva Butler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Four small black bear cubs now call Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend home, and two yearlings have been released back in the wild.
A cub weighing 3 pounds was found struggling in a ditch of water on March 20 in Gatlinburg.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers rescued the baby and quickly brought the cub, named Bobby Bear, to the Bear Rescue for care. If cubs do not receive care fast they end up dehydrated and malnourished.
Bear Rescue curator Lisa Stewart said apparently the den flooded and the mother was moving the cubs and dropped one in the ditch. She thinks there was so much traffic that the sow couldn’t come back for the cub.
The other two cubs, a brother and sister weighing 4 pounds each upon arrival, came to the Bear Rescue on March 27. They have not yet been named.
“TWRA officers heard that a bear had been killed in Polk County and when they went to investigate they heard the two cubs bawling in a den nearby,” Stewart said.
On Friday, National Park Service personnel brought in a fourth cub, which was in very poor health.
“It’s very unfortunate the cubs had to be orphaned before they came out of the dens with their mothers,” she said. The cubs were all born in January.
“Little bears like this require round the clock care,” Stewart said. She lives on-site and normally works 100 hours a week.
“They’re like little alarm clocks. When they get hungry they start screaming. They want to eat all the time,” she said.’
“They nurse every three or four hours. Generally it takes 30 minutes, if all is going well, to feed each of them to give them a chance to enjoy heir meal. Then they are burped and put back with their buddies to play and rest,” Stewart said.
They currently are gaining two pounds a week.
They’re fed a rich mixture of formula that is similar to mother’s milk, They cannot take cow’s milk because it is not rich enough.
Generally they have two night feedings at midnight and 6 a.m. or they nurse at 11 p.m., 2 and 6 a.m. They will get the rich formula, which costs $100 a week, until the first of June when they will be weaned. As their teeth start coming in they will start nibbling on solid food like berries.
At night they are kept in a small containment area because it is still too cold for them to be outside, just like if they were in dens with their mothers. During the days they enjoy the sunshine and fresh air outside.
“We’re blessed to have the three of them because it is very difficult to raise one cub. After they eat they hang on to each other and make sweet purring sounds. Together they rest and comfort each other,” she said.
Although small they are not the weak little black balls of fur they appear.
“They’re amazing creatures. Their claws are already there. They’re not cuddly,” Stewart said.
She has already been bit on the face and scratched on the neck.
“They have very powerful jaws and could easily break a finger if they chomp down on a finger instead of their bottle. They have very wild instincts,” she said.
To feed the cubs, she wears two layers of clothing and many times metal lined gloves.
The cubs will be at Bear Rescue until the end of the year when it will be determined whether to release them in the wild then or wait until spring 2012.
A yearling that came to the Bear Center in May 2010 named R.A. was released back in Virginia last week. He was a little hefty when released, going from 7 to 141 pounds.
A second yearling which has been at the center since just before Christmas named Kris (Kringle) came in as an underdeveloped yearling weighing only 40 pounds. Officials were worried that the bear could not survive through the winter and brought him to Bear Rescue. He weighed 80 pounds when released Wednesday back home in Louisiana.
Last year there was a short food supply and the Bear Center had a record 23 cubs and 16 severely undersized yearlings from Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana.
They are on target to have a second record year.
There was an abundant natural food supply, especially a large crop of acorns, in 2010 and the sows went to their winter dens healthy and pregnant and had abundant cubs.
Normally sows have two cubs, but when in good condition may have three cubs, although bears have been known to have five cubs at once.
Due to going to the dens in good condition, the sows have enough milk to sustain large litters.
Stewart expects Bear Rescue will get older cubs that have already been out in the wild later in the year. They will be able to teach the present cubs about life in the wild, she said.
Skills include climbing trees, breaking limbs in order to gnaw bark, find bugs, forage for food and build a den.
Appalachian Bear Rescue is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that has been returning orphaned, injured or sick black bears to the wild since 1996. It is located on 25 acres of fenced woodland in Townsend.
To teach the public about black bears and Bear Rescue, the Second Annual Black Bear Expo will be held from 9 a,m, to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Townsend Visitors Center.
There will be full day of education, with emphasis on coexisting with black bears and the mission of Appalachian Bear Rescue.
The first event featured music, food, interesting exhibits and storytellers. Children’s games, educational outreach, informed wildlife, art and photos, carvings and a hike were included.
Since the bears are returned to the wild, they have as little human contact as possible.
Bear Rescue is always in need of funding to take care of the orphaned or sick little bears.
Donationals of fruit and other food can be made at the IGA in Townsend.
For more information on Bear Rescue and black bears visit www.AppalachianBearRescue.or attend the Black Bear Expo.