Appalachian Bear Rescue welcomes two new cubs

May. 01, 2014 @ 11:22 PM

Appalachian Bear Rescue recovered two cubs from the Johnson City area this week, marking 200 bears that have been rescued in the lifetime of the organization.

The cubs, a male and female each weighing approximately eight pounds, were given fitting names. The male, Bucky, is named after the East Tennessee State University mascot, the Buccaneer. ETSU is located near where the cubs were found, and one of the rescue organization's curators, Janet Dalton, holds a doctorate from ETSU.

The female, Cee Cee, got her name because the Roman numeral for 200 is CC, and she is officially considered cub number 200.

"Our curators, they don't call the bears by name; they call them by their numbers, 199 and 200," Appalachian Bear Rescue President Dana Dodd said. "Our Facebook fans would not think too kindly of calling them 199 and 200, so they have names for our fans to follow."

Dodd said she is not sure what happened to the mother of the two cubs, only that it died. Cee Cee had a wound on her hip area and was taken to the emergency veterinary clinic at the University of Tennessee.

"They did some X-rays and tests to make sure nothing internally was wrong," Dodd said. "She's fine. She's taking antibiotics now."

Bucky did not have injuries like his sibling's, but curators noticed that both cubs were very stressed, particularly Bucky. The cubs were separated while Cee Cee took antibiotics.

Curator Coy Blair eventually reunited the two cubs, putting them in a cage together with a divider in the middle. Cee Cee pawed at the divider, trying to get closer to Bucky. When Blair lifted the divider, Cee Cee went to Bucky, and Blair said that when he left, he could hear "the faintest vocalizations."

"The stress instantly left," Dodd said. "Sometimes the best medicine isn't antibiotics."

These cubs join two others currently at the bear rescue this season, Sugar Bear from Fentress County and Sweet Pea from Kentucky. Sweet Pea is the first cub the group has ever received from Kentucky, and was brought in with help from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Appalachian Bear Rescue's mission statement says the group seeks "to rehabilitate orphaned and injured bears for release to the wild; to educate the public about black bears and the regional threats facing them; and to research bear attributes which may help solve other environmental or health related issues."

Curators evaluate rescued bears, making sure they are eating properly and are able to find food on their own before being released back into the wild.

With many bears coming out of hibernation and looking for food, there are better chances of sighting them in the coming weeks, according to Daryl Ratajczak, chief of wildlife for TWRA.

Bears normally fear humans and will not approach unless provoked, but there are circumstances to be wary of bears.

"In a situation where someone gets too close to a cub and the mother sees a threat — and will protect her cub at all costs — that's one that everybody knows about, but the other problem is habituated bears that you might see around town, not afraid of people," Ratajczak said. "These bears are used to being around people and can become confrontational. Fortunately, it's not too often when a bear attacks a person, but it's best to keep your distance from a bear that's habituated."

Bears become habituated through improper feeding, Ratajczak said, and the TWRA always advises people to never try to feed a bear.

Improper feeding can be done by accident.

"When spring rolls around, the bears emerge from their dens quite hungry," he said. "Unfortunately, there's not much tasty food for bears. They'll search far and wide for food, and when they're faced with a choice between grass and some leftover steak someone left in the garbage, they're going with the steak."

Ratajczak said the best course of action when confronted with a habituated bear is to not approach it, and to call the proper authorities, while using common sense. Once a bear has become habituated to humans, the only recourse is to put the bear down.

The TWRA website at tn.gov/twra has a list of tips for minimizing the chances of accidental feeding of bears, as well as vendors who sell bear-proof garbage containers.

jold@themountainpress.com