Amazing as it seems, ABR ‘s Skipper Bear (#248) who arrived on February 6th in seriously malnourished and dehydrated state, is now running wild and free, having been released on June 3rd. When Skipper was examined at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, the prognosis was not good. The vets warned that he might not live through the night.  However, little Skipper showed a strong will to live, and as time went on he made phenomenal progress, going from barely surviving to thriving in just five months.

Here is how Skipper looked in February, when he was placed in the Cub Nursery for continual monitoring and careful feeding that started with bear milk replacement formula.

Skipper

Though he was a yearling, Skipper weighed just 8 pounds.

He was quite a pitiful sight, with his unkempt fur the result of severe malnutrition.  But in just over a month, on March 10th, he was released into a Wild Enclosure.  He had transitioned from the Cub Nursery through the Cub House, and an Acclimation Pen.  He was already looking much improved.

Skipper

March 10 – Skipper went out of the Acclimation Pen into the Wild Enclosure.

As these next photos show, Skipper spent much of his time in trees.  He was coming down to forage for the food thrown over the fence by the curators, and was putting on weight.

Skipper

Soon after entering the Wild Enclosure, Skipper found a tree that he liked.

Skipper

In April Skipper was beginning to look a bit plump. Check out the tummy!

Skipper

In May Skipper spent a lot of time snoozing in the trees.

On June 3rd, Skipper entered the Acclimation Pen to savor the treats placed there.  He was sedated and the preparation for his release began.

Skipper - weighed

Skipper weighed in at 47 pounds, having gained 39 pounds at ABR!

Some of the recently released yearlings have weighed more than Skipper, but for a 16-month-0ld yearling, 47 pounds is a good weight for an early summer release.  He will have plenty of time to continue to fatten up as berries, fruits, and then nuts in the fall become available.

Coy and Skipper

Curator Coy monitors Skipper’s vital signs. He is healthy and ready for release.

Skipper's teeth

Skippers teeth and guns are healthy, a result of the good diet he’s had at ABR.

Another indicator of his improved health is the condition of his fur – shiny, thick and smooth.  Curator Coy and Ryan Williamson from the national park transferred him to the truck.

Coy and Ryan with Skipper

Curator Coy and NPS wildlife tech Ryan carry Skipper to the truck.

Skipper Bear was ready to go home.  He is wearing a GPS collar, so Coy can monitor his movements and whereabouts.

Skipper

Skipper Bear was ready for his release and second chance.

When the truck reached its destination, Skipper was quick to jump down and run into the woods.

Skipper home

Skipper ran off into the forest.

We wish Skipper Bear a long, healthy and happy life in the wild.  He is back where he belongs.  In many ways his survival and good health are something of a miracle, given his shape when he arrived five months ago.

Watch for our next post – a video of Skipper Bear being released and running into the woods.