Bear Feature Stories & Photos

The local crows have found out about the copious amounts of food that are provided for our cubs.  Crows being the hungry and noisy creatures that they are, have been visiting to partake of the feast.  The yearling bears aren’t bothered, but the cubs are frightened by these noisy, raucous birds and take refuge in a tree.  Although the cubs are quite a bit bigger than the crows, they don’t feel very brave when the birds swoop in, cawing loudly.


Rollo climbed the tree to get away. He doesn’t like crows.


Rollo soothes himself by sucking on his paw.

Just as human babies will suck their thumbs for comfort, bear cubs often suck their paws.  Sometimes a cub will suck the ear of a sibling cub.


Otto has climbed up to get away from the noisy crows, too.


Otto comforts himself by sucking on his paw.


The crows left and the cubs climbed down to forage.

When we had cubs last year who were frightened by crows, Curator Coy hung up a fake crow, hoping to frighten the crows away.  Here is the fake, and we can see a real crow in the background.  The real crow doesn’t seem too alarmed by the fake.


Fake crow and real crow.

It won’t take too long for the cubs to get over their fear, as they realize that they are bigger than the crows.  Then they will probably start chasing the birds.  However, black bears are very timid animals and easily frightened by things that are much smaller than they are.

The two yearling bears – Summitt and Dani Bear – were very relaxed in their tree.  They not only shared the tree, they even shared the same branch.  They are very tolerant of each other, a trait that is not common in yearlings, who are usually very solitary.

Dani - Summitt

Dani and Summitt Bear on the same branch.


Dani relaxes on her end of the branch.


Summitt snoozes on his end.

Meanwhile, in their enclosure, the two cubs climbed down from their tree in search of food.


Here they come!

Otto - Rollo

Rollo is first to touch the ground.  He starts to forage.


Rollo rakes the food closer, using his paw. He is a sturdy little cub.

Something made the cubs a little nervous.  They retreated to the tree to continue eating.  Sometimes bears will eat standing up.


The cubs took their food closer to the tree.


Otto stands by the tree and uses his paw to get the food to his mouth.


A bear’s paw can be a handy plate.

After a few minutes of snacking, the two cubs scrambled back up the tree.  They would wait until later in the day, around dusk, to continue to eat.

Bears are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.  We see our ABR bears any time of the day, but early and late are the best times to see bears in the wild.




Bears do not like wind.  The rustling of leaves and branches distorts their excellent sense of hearing, and they aren’t able to identify sounds.  Therefore, the slightest thing may be perceived as a threat.  All four of the ABR bears reacted to the wind.

Rollo - Otto

Rollo and Otto Bear stayed very close to each other in their tree.


Dani Bear came out of the undergrowth hesitantly.


Dani acted nervous. She was on the alert.


Something spooked her and she retreated into the underbrush.


Summitt was skittish. He foraged, but carefully.


This far but no further. Summitt is cautious.


Something sent him to a nearby tree for safety.

A special treat for all four of the bears was honeycomb!


Honeycomb – yum!

Though many people think that bears raid bees’ nests to get the honey, the real attraction to them is the fat and protein-rich larvae.  But, since they do have a sweet tooth, they enjoy the honeycomb as dessert.


The sad news – and it is very sad, indeed, is that Bear #263 (Hawkins Bear) has died.  As you know, he was hit by a car in early June, and after examination at UT College of Veterinary Medicine he had been recovering at ABR, taking antibiotics and pain meds in his food, which he ate with relish.  The curators tried to make his life as pleasant as possible, even installing a pool on his platform when he was not climbing down.  His climbing and movement seemed to be improving, but then he was found to have an abscess.  This meant more meds.  Hawkins was tolerating captivity, more than most yearling bears would, but it was assumed that his body needed the  healing rest.

He was taken back to UT on July 12th for a follow up exam, and the news was not good.  An MRI revealed that his jaw had actually been fractured in the accident, even though it did not show up in his earlier examination.  Treatment would have required the extraction of additional teeth and the wiring of his jaw to immobilize it for up to a year.  Obviously, this would make it impossible for him to live a normal, wild life.  The vets, wildlife officers and curator reluctantly agreed that the kindest thing would be euthanization.

It is always very difficult to see one of our bears die while in our care and not be able to be released, but we don’t want to have the animal endure additional suffering.  And so we must say goodbye to our Hawkins Bear.  At least his death was as humane as possible.  And as is true of each cub and yearling we care for, we learned vital lessons from him.


The happy yearling news is that the elusive Summitt Bear made an appearance, looking very handsome.


Summitt was in view, resting on the branches of a tree. He looks relaxed.


A closer view shows how relaxed he was – he is sleeping with a branch for a pillow!

Our other yearling, Dani Bear, did not appear for this photo shoot.  We’ll catch her next time.

The two cubs – Otto and Rollo – were in a tree, as usual.  But their behavior was not the ordinary.  See how they jockeyed for position and started in separate parts of the tree but ended up very much together.

Rollo - Otto

Rollo was above Otto, with space between them.

Otto - Rollo

Otto decided to get closer to his buddy.


Otto came very close to Rollo.


Otto tucked himself in just below Rollo.


Rollo seemed content. He wasn’t bothered at all.

Rollo - Otto

The two cubs fell asleep together.

It is obvious that these two cubs have bonded.  They behave like siblings, although they are not related.



The curators had not seen the cubs in their pool, although they could tell by the trampled grass that the pool had been used.  Curator Janet scored the first sighting, and was able to document the fact in photos.  Here they are.

To start with, she noticed the cubs leaving the clearing as if they were on a mission.

otto - rollo

The two cubs going into the underbrush.

They went in there

They disappeared. Where did they go?

Otto - Rollo

There they are – getting a drink from The Cub Tub.

Otto - tub

Otto got into the tub to drink.

Otto in

Otto fills the tub. Rollo decides to leave.

Otto - Rollo

Both cubs move over to The Cubby Pool.

Rollo - swim

Rollo goes in first. Good swimming form!

Both cubs had a swim and then scrambled out.

Otto - Rollo

Out they go!

Rollo - Otto

Two little wet cubs in the underbrush.

Over in Wild Enclosure #4, Dani Bear was the only yearling to appear.


What Curator Janet saw of Dani with the naked eye.


What the camera’s zoom lens revealed.

When Janet went by Hawkins’ Acclimation Pen, he gave the usual non-greeting, huffing, blowing and stomping.


Hawkins’ body language says “Leave me alone!”

We were especially glad to see the cubs using their “swimming hole.”  Bears are very good swimmers and use water to cool off and to rid themselves of insects.  We are sure that the cubs are continuing to use their pool in this hot weather.

Curator David was lucky.  He was able to get photos of all five of the bears. The only problem was that Summitt and Dani, though both were visible, were not recognizable.  We start with the yearlings.

Dani or Summitt

Dani or Summitt Bear sitting in a tree.


Here is the other yearling – Dani or Summitt in another tree.

Hawkins Bear, with the abscess indicated.  The curators think it’s looking better, although it looks pretty sore to us.


Hawkins Bear with very uncomfortable looking abscess.

Hawkins seems to be doing well in spite of it.  He eats plenty of the soft fruits with his antibiotics added, and moves around as before.


In this shot, Hawkins is tending to his paw.

Now we turn our attention to the cubs.  When Curator David spotted them, they were sharing a tree.  Aware that food had been delivered, they started to climb down.


Rollo was lower on the tree, so he started down first.


Rollo was in control of the situation. Otto couldn’t pass him.


Otto may have been getting impatient. He is coming into Rollo’s space.  He’s “in Rollo’s face.”


Otto finally reached the ground. He’s ready to eat!

Otto - Rollo

The two cubs foraged together.

Otto - Rollo

Clouds were forming, but the cubs kept eating.

Otto - Rollo

As rain started to fall, the cubs retreated. Soon they climbed up the tree again.

Bears, whether large or small, do not mind rain.  Their fur sheds water very readily.  However, as we have seen many times before, the cubs are vulnerable when out in the open, so it was natural for them to retreat into the underbrush.

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