The four cubs are busy in the Wild Enclosure, and we’ve seen them foraging, eating, and playing with each other.  Here is a video that shows them playing up in the trees and on the ground.  They are at home in either place, although to us, the treetop sparring looks a bit precarious.  Check it out – get your chuckle for the day!

You will see that they have reached a milestone – they are 6 months old!  Of course, we don’t know their exact birth dates, but since we know that black bear cubs are born in late January to early February, our curators have chosen January 24 as their assumed birthday.  This makes them 6 months old now.  Their size is appropriate for their age.

Our curator was able to get some good photos of the cubs as they played and interacted in the Wild Enclosure the other day.  Although, with the exception of #199-Bucky and his sister #200-Cee Cee, they are not related, you wouldn’t know it to watch them.  We have seen this before – that unrelated cubs this young settle into a “family” relationship as they live together.  You may wonder if it will be lonely for them, when they are released back into the wild later in the year.  But the nature of black bears is to live a solo life, except for a mother and her cubs from their birth until “family breakup,” when she disperses them (usually when they are about 16 months old).  So it won’t be traumatic for the cubs to go their separate ways when released.

Here is a collection of images of the cubs interacting and foraging.

cub on log

A cub stretches out on the log.  Might be insects there.

cub finds insects in log.

Sure enough, it seems that the cub is finding insects, while another cub isn’t interested.

Here comes a cub, sniffing out food.

Here comes a cub, sniffing out food.

Cub eating

Something tasty to eat here.

closeup of cub eating

Closeup of another munching cub.

Cub seems to be smiling

Must have been tasty – the cub seems to be smiling!

Cub moves on

Moving on to find some other tempting treats.

Our four cubs are growing and filling out (and filling up!)  Here are some photos of recent foraging activities.  When they are back in the wild, they, like all black bears will spend a majority of their time eating. Eating is a bear’s mission in life.

When Curator Coy started to throw the food over the fence, the cubs were up in their favorite tree.

Bucky and Sweet Pea

Bucky and Sweet Pea are “buds,” sharing space in the tree.

It didn’t take long for them to climb down to forage for the food he had thrown, although they waited until they felt safe before climbing down from the tree.

Four cubs climbed down.

All four cubs were in the tree. All four started down.

Eating grapes and blueberries.

They love the grapes and blueberries, and with their prehensile lips they can pick up one at a time.

Cub uses paw to sort berries.

Their paws look big, but are capable of delicate movements.

Cub sniffing food

A bear’s sense of smell is very keen. They follow their noses to find food.

Cub eating insects on log.

Cubs like to search in and under logs for insects to eat.

Cub looks up

This cub may think that berries and grapes come down from the sky.

Cub has stopped eating.

Looks like this cub has eaten its fill.


Our curators posted a new video to YouTube the other day, and we know you’ll enjoy it.  It is a trail cam video, and the first part shows us what the cubs do at night.  There is some fence interference, but of course that’s because the trail cam is of necessity fixed in place.  The next day the video camera was moved, and there is a nice segment of the cubs – all four of them – foraging, eating, playing, scratching, and wrestling.  You can see that they are really growing! The four cubs will stay at ABR until sometime in the fall, when the wildlife officers decide that they are ready for release.  But the age of 6 months is generally thought to be the youngest age at which a cub can survive on its own.  We are glad that these cubs will have a few extra months to gain weight and practice their wild behavior, so they will really be ready to make it in the wild.

The recent rains in Eastern Tennessee are welcome, as we have been short of rainfall this year.  And, as we said in our last post about the cubs playing in the rain, the showers don’t bother them at all!  Curator Coy took these photos a couple of days ago when, as you can plainly see, it was raining quite steadily.

4 cubs in tree

Cubs in tree on rainy day.

Sweet Pea gnaws on branch

Sweet Pea gnaws on a branch. The cubs strip the bark to get at insects.

The next few images show two of the cubs – Bucky and Sugar Bear – interacting in the rain while in the tree.

Bucky and Sugar

Bucky and Sugar play together in the tree.

Bucky and Sugar

Bucky and Sugar touch noses in the tree.

Touching noses or mouths is a commonly seen interaction between cubs.

Bucky and Sugar in tree

It appears that a “cub conversation” is taking place.

Sugar talks to Bucky

Sugar seems to have a lot to say to Bucky.  What do you suppose she is saying?

Bucky and Sugar

She uses her paw to get the point across.

Cee Cee in rain and tree

Meanwhile, Cee Cee is just hanging out.

Bear Bum in tree

Curator Coy says this is “The End” of the rainy day saga.

What do bear cubs do when it rains?  Usually they do just what they would be doing if it were not raining.  In these photos that Curator Coy took the other (rainy) day, they are in their favorite tree, as usual.  But you’ll see that they look wet.  Their outer layer of fur sheds water, so the shorter fur next to their skin stays pretty dry.  Kind of like having a built-in raincoat.

Sweet Pea with tongue out.

Sweet Pea yawns and sticks out her tongue.

Did you know that bears had such long tongues?  They are adept at using the tongue along with their prehensile lips to manipulate food into their mouths.

Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea settles down to look around the enclosure.

Bucky and Cee Cee

Bucky and Cee Cee are nearby, in another part of the tree.

Sugar Bear

Sugar Bear has a favorite spot in the tree, but it’s getting to be tight as she grows.


They were at it again when our curator took these photos recently.  The cubs heard him approach and immediately scampered up their favorite tree.  This may be frustrating for those of us who want to see the little guys, but it is just the kind of wild behavior that our curators are hoping for.  They are doing what they should do – showing fear and distrust of humans.  Luckily, the “close-up” images are possible with a good camera lens.  When the curator tiptoed (yes, they actually do walk very softly, trying to make as little noise as possible) he heard the sound of running as the cubs dashed for the tree, and then saw this:

cubs up in tree

The cubs had climbed the tree.

The camera brought them in a little closer:

Cubs in tree.

Cubs in the tree.

He was able to isolate the cubs by zooming in on them.

Cee Cee in tree

Cee Cee was startled, and hid in the tree.

Sugar Bear in tree

Sugar Bear peeked out from her safe perch.

Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea is wary of a human’s presence.




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