Appalachian Bear Rescue admitted another 2016 black bear cub, #254.  Nicknamed Fergus Bear, the little male was brought to ABR by a ranger from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  He is tiny, at three months of age (same age as Finnegan) he weighs just 3.26 pounds.  There was no sign of a mother or siblings, so the ranger brought him to ABR.  A cub this small cannot survive long in the wild without the protection of its mother.  He was examined by UT vet Dr. Ramsey, who happened to be at ABR, and found to be reasonably healthy.

#254 - Fergus

Cub #254, Fergus Bear, arrives at ABR. The NPS ranger used this trap to catch him.

Fergus Bear is housed in The Cub Nursery temporarily. The curators will observe him closely as they did with Finnegan.  Fergus Bear weighs only .27 pound more than Finnegan did when he arrived, even though he is a month older.


Fergus Bear in The Cub Nursery.

The curator put bowls of formula and applesauce in the pen, to see if Fergus would lap.  If not, they will need to bottle feed him, and will probably use the Cub Feeder that Curator Coy designed for Finnegan.


Fergus in the pen with Mother Bunny for companionship.

As we can see, Fergus is not much bigger than Mother Bunny.  That will change as he gets the nourishment from the bear milk replacement formula and soft fruits.  Curator Coy estimates that Finnegan Bear now weighs almost 15 pounds!

Hopefully, you checked out the video we posted about the logs added to The Cub House by Curator Janet, and Finnegan Bear’s reaction when he first discovered the logs.  Today we have a series of photos that show him climbing on the logs.  Once he got used to them being a part of the scenery, his natural curiosity led him to investigate.  The results of his investigation are very amusing as well as revealing of how bear cubs learn by exploring new things.


Finnegan makes it to the top of the logs.


He threw Mother Bunny down from the logs.


He discovers he can climb from one log to the other.


The smell and texture of the logs are new to him.


Finnegan balances and walks on the log.


He turns his attention to the other log.


Finnegan uses his claws to shred bark on the log, as bears do when hunting for insects.


He goes down head first. He will learn to go down the “bear way,” bum first.

Finnegan is learning some good lessons as he has fun playing with his logs.  When he climbs real trees the lessons will continue, and he will learn to descend the way bear cubs do in the wild .He is practicing new skills, like bark-shredding and balancing.

As Finnegan, our 3-month-old black bear cub gets older, he doesn’t spend quite so much time napping.  He is spending more time playing.  Play is very important to the growth and development of bear cubs.  If Finnegan were still with his mother, he would very likely play with litter mates or with his mom.  Because he is alone, he plays with his stuffed toys and even with the towels that the curators provide for his comfort.  A couple of days ago, The curator observed the little cub wrestling with his towel and playing with one of the toys, called Mother Bunny (the usual stuffed bear toys were being washed in the Cub Laundry)  The curator was able to photograph him through the window after the play session ended.


Finnegan just subdued the pink towel behind him.


He looks for something else to do.


It looks like he is thinking about what to do next. It also appears that he’s watching out of the corner of his eye

Out in Wild Enclosure #1, we see that Wily Bear and Tiny Tim Bear are sharing a tree.  The curators report that they don’t get any closer to each other than this.

Wily and Tiny Tim

Wily is the yearling on the lower branch; Tiny Tim is up high in the tree.

Later in the day, Curator Janet gave Finnegan a surprise.  While he was in one side of The Cub House, Janet cleaned the other side and added a couple of logs to the scene.  She was able to catch his reaction in this video, which is one of the best we’ve seen.  Do check it out – it is really cute!  Click here to see Finnegan as he discovers the new additions.


You may be saying to yourself – “seven yearlings?  I thought there were eight.”  And you’d be right.  There are eight yearlings at ABR since Wily (Bear #253) arrived earlier in the month.  But when Ken LaValley, our photographer of record, came by to take these portraits, Wily was not cooperating.  He had just been released into the Wild Enclosure where Tiny Tim is living and he did not show himself.  Ken did take portraits of the other yearlings and Finnegan, our cub.  It was the time of month that we consider to be the bears’ birthdays, since it falls in the middle of the period when bear cubs are born – from mid-January to mid-February.

Here is Finnegan’s Three-Month-Old portrait.


Finnegan is Three Months Old!

Following are the Fifteen-Month portraits of all the yearlings with the exception of Wily.


Milo Bear is Fifteen Months Old!


Pumpkin Bear is Fifteen Months Old!

Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim Bear is Fifteen Months Old!


Alonzo Bear is Fifteen Months Old!


Bailey Bear is Fifteen Months Old!


Julius Bear is Fifteen Months Old!


Skipper Bear is Fifteen Months Old!

All of these bears are thriving and the yearlings are ready for release very soon.  Even Skipper, who was so very tiny and malnourished, has made such progress that he will be ready for release.


Today we have photos of our most recent ABR residents, the cub Finnegan Bear and the newest yearling, Wily Bear.  Ken LaValley, our photographer of record, took a “portrait” of Finnegan that shows how much the little cub has grown in his six weeks with us.


Finnegan Bear at three months of age, a portrait.

Just for comparison, here is a photo that was taken by one of the curators.


Finnegan Bear in the Cub House.

Here is Ken, taking a photo from a great distance, using his mighty camera!  He uses a 600mm lens to take the portraits of the bears.


Ken LaValley with his professional camera.

Another comparison – here is a side-by-side view of Ken’s camera and the one the curators use.


Camera comparison. We think the curators do very well with their unit.

Finally, a photo of the elusive Wily Bear, who hides on the platform in his Acclimation Pen to avoid the human curators.


Wily Bear in his Acclimation Pen.

Wily will be able for release into a Wild Enclosure as soon as he has finished his meds.  He is doing well.

As we promised, this post is about the last releases during the week of April 11th.  Today we share the release of Joy and Rufus Bear.   Rufus Bear arrived in November 2015, weighing just 9 pounds at the age of 10 months.  To illustrate how needy the little cubs were, our 2016 cub, Finnegan Bear, is just 3 months old and weighs about 10 pounds now!  Rufus was a very malnourished little cub when he arrived at ABR.  Here are a few photos that show how he grew.

Rufus - November

Rufus was very underweight as a 10-month-old cub.


Rufus was in an Acclimation Pen to get stronger.


His next stop was in The Cub House in late November.


In December Rufus was in the Wild Enclosure.


Rufus looked much larger by January.


He was one of the “buffalo bears” in his winter coat in March.

April 14, 2016 was release day for Rufus.


Rufus weighed 62.5 pounds on release day!


Rufus Bear was loaded on the truck to go to his release.

Joy Bear was released on April 14th also.  Joy had arrived in January at the age of 12 months, weighing 11 pounds.  She, too, was very underweight and malnourished.


Joy went into the Wild Enclosure after a short time in an Acclimation Pen.

It was easy to take her photo when she had just been released into the Wild Enclosure.  She set out to explore the new space.


Joy explored her new enclosure.

After that it became much harder to recognize her among the furry residents of her enclosure.  We don’t have many photos of Joy that are identifiable.


This photo, taken in March, was positively identified as Joy Bear.


Joy Bear was worked up for her release on April 14th. She weighed 50.5 pounds!


After the workup, here is Joy Bear in the truck, ready to go.

The release of these two yearlings brought the number of releases to 18!  There are now just 8 yearlings in Wild Enclosures at ABR and 1 cub in The Cub House.  We hope for long, happy lives in the wild for all of the released bears as they run free in their natural habitat.


We’ll take a break from the release posts (we still have to do another one) for updates on three of the bears at ABR.

As the title says, little cub Finnegan Bear has moved out of the Cub Nursery and into The Cub House.  He has shown that he is able (if not always eager) to lap formula from a bowl, and The Cub House gives him more room to play and explore.  He still has access to the cub feeder, at least for now.  Curators must wean cubs from the bottle at a very early age in order to continue to minimize human contact.


Finnegan Bear has more space in The Cub House.

He removed the towels with which the curators lined his culvert den.  He had his own idea about what would be comfortable.  His toy bears are near his feeding bowls.  Perhaps he is trying to share his food?


Finnegan is growing and getting plump. He has made great progress.

Finnegan eats

He likes his formula, which is now mixed with mashed blueberries.

Our most recent arrival, the yearling #253, Wily Bear, is adjusting to the Acclimation Pen.  He retreats to the upper tier of his jungle gym when he senses the curator’s presence.  Good wild bear behavior!


Wily Bear doesn’t want the curator to see him.

Amazing as it seems, Finnegan is catching up to Wily, weight wise.  Curator Coy says that Finnegan is around 10 pounds now, and Wily came in weighing only 18 pounds.  Remember that Finnegan is only two and one-half months old, and Wily is fourteen and one-half months old.

We have a photo of another yearling – here is Bailey Bear in her Wild Enclosure.  She will be released as soon as we are able to orchestrate additional releases.  Bailey looks good.


Bailey forages in the Wild Enclosure. She is a healthy yearling.

In our next post we will share the remaining releases that took place on April 14th.



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