Freed black bear returns to Smoky Mountains.
Healthy black bear returns home. Willow Bear returned to National Park by Appalachian Bear Rescue. Willow Bear (named upon arrival at ABR) was returned safely to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after several months of rehab at Appalachian Bear Rescue.
Willow arrived at the rescue facility on June 5, 2018, after a man from Cocke County discovered two cubs that had been hit by a car. After placing a call to ABR, the man waited at the scene for two hours hoping the cub’s mother would return. When she did not (and given the condition of the two small bears) he took them home. ABR contacted the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, TWRA, which dispatched an officer who transported the cubs to the University Of Tennessee College Of Veterinary Medicine.
Unfortunately Willow’s sibling did not survive and doctors held out scant hope
Willow bear weighed less than nine pounds upon arrival to ABR.
for little Willow who was judged to be about four months old and weighed only 8.8 pounds. Willow was so unresponsive it seemed unlikely she’d survive the examination. But Drs. McEntire and Cushing, and their entire team were determined to try and save her.
Suspecting a skull fracture, the vets sent her for x-rays which revealed that at some point in her short life, Willow had suffered a broken rib, since healed. There was no evidence of damage to her skull and an ultrasound found no fluid in her abdomen. The doctors administered a saline solution to hydrate her…and almost immediately she was able to stand. Severe dehydration will often render a cub immobile and all it takes is fluid to revive them. The vets advised the curator they wanted to keep Willow overnight for observation.
This precaution proved unnecessary. The curator had no sooner arrived back at the facility when he got a call informing him that Willow was active and ready to relocate to ABR.
Willow began her recuperation in The Cub Nursery. Bears cubs are usually quiet but when they want something, they can be LOUD. Willow soon let the curators know that she wanted out and they moved her to The Red Roof Recovery Center. Little bears fare better in captivity when they associate with other small bears, so as soon as Willow could walk, eat and climb she was moved to The Cub House to meet others of her kind.
Expert care is provided to all bears at Appalachian Bear Rescue.
Willow entered the Acclimation Pen which was occupied by Viola and Clementine Bear. At first, Viola was terrified of Willow but, with the intervention of Clementine, quickly grew to accept her. The two forged a mischievous friendship that included lots of cubby hijinks.
In time, the three cubs were released into Wild Enclosure #4 where they foraged, swam, played and climbed. Unfortunately this area was short-lived for Clementine who died, most likely the victim of a fall. But before long, with the arrival of a new cub named Bosco, the enclosure was again the scene of a bear version of the “Three Musketeers.”
Willow thrived in the Wild Enclosure, and with the introduction of Cherry, Ruff, and Tumble bears the trio was soon renamed “The Six Pack.” The cubs were inseparable – never venturing far from each other and sleeping in a great pile on the Resting Platform. Willow was particularly competitive and initiated a cubby version of “Game of Thrones” over a stump where she proved victorious.
At about ten months old, Willow had spent more than half her life at ABR and it was time to return her to the wild. Often bear cubs determine their own schedule. When Willow wandered alone into the Acclimation Pen (and since she was the only bear scheduled to go back to a specific area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park) the curator took advantage of the moment, lowered the gate and called to have her released. Park Rangers quickly arrived at ABR and immobilized Willowfor her trip. Once again ABR’S passive capture protocol and the care and expertise of ABR, allows Willow Bear, now in excellent health and weighing in at 82 pounds, to roam free in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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