In mid-July, a bear cub was seen wandering along the Nolichucky River near Erwin, Tennessee. Mama bear was nowhere in sight. The five-month-old cub had been struggling over the course of four days. She appeared very distraught and malnourished. River guides were at a loss for how to help her.
The guides dubbed the cub “Noli Bear,” naming her for the river where she was found. Gradually, she warmed up to human contact. Initially, she only inched toward the men. Then, becoming braver, she swam in the direction of their rafts. On the fourth day, Danny Allen of High Mountain Expeditions geared up for a rescue. He pulled his yellow dinghy alongside the riverbank, near the cub. To his surprise, she promptly scrambled on board!
Matt Moses, owner of the USA Raft Company, said such brazen behavior is uncommon in bears. None of the guides had ever seen a bear enter a man’s boat.
Danny matched the cub’s courage. Unfazed by her sharp teeth and claws, he picked the bear up and consoled her. He then brought Noli Bear to Matt, who called Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). The bureau transported the cub to Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) in Townsend. The facility specializes in caring for ill, orphaned, and injured bears and returning them to the wild.
Thanks to the staff of the two raft companies, Noli Bear is now recovering. Initial treatment focused on hydration and nutrition. Fortunately, she’s very fond of grapes and applesauce. She’s being carefully monitored for additional signs of dehydration and heat stroke. ABR staff will be assessing her vision, hearing, and strength. Once Noli Bear is “out of the woods,” she’ll be placed in the company of four other cubs at the facility.
Noli Bear arrived at ABR weighing 14 pounds. Once she reaches 50 pounds, preparations will be made to release her. This will occur sometime between August and December of 2015. TWRA will determine the best site for her return to the wild. Typically, this is near the location where a bear is first found.
The road to recovery isn’t easy for a bear cub. Normally, a baby stays with their mother until 16 months of age. Even under ideal conditions, cub survival is sketchy. Half the offspring don’t live beyond one year. Of those that survive, 25 percent don’t reach two years.
However, Noli Bear’s chances of rehab are good. With her record of courage and tenacity, she surely has what it takes!