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.

Veterinarians from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine made a house call to ABR to examine Hawkins Bear.  When Curator Janet studied the recent trail cam footage of Hawkins,  she noticed a laceration on his lower jaw.  She sent the footage to Dr. Ramsay at UTCVM he decided that this house call was needed.  Dr. Ramsay, Dr. Morrison and an assistant came to check the yearling. They had to sedate him for the exam, and were able to weigh him while he was asleep.


Hawkins on the scale. He weighed 85.5 pounds!

When he arrived after the accident a month ago, he weighed 61.5 pounds.  All that good food at ABR has helped him to gain nearly 25 pounds!

Dr. Ramsay found that he had an abscessed tooth, and gave him a shot of antibiotics.  He also prescribed a week of oral antibiotics, pain meds  and a soft food diet.  Should it be necessary to extract the tooth, it will require another trip to the vet school.

Hawkins - exam

Curator Coy with Dr. Morrison and her assistant as they examine Hawkins Bear.

So it seems that Hawkins Bear will spend more time in his Acclimation Pen.  Hopefully the antibiotics and pain meds will take care of the problem and it won’t be necessary to extract the tooth.

Meanwhile, Otto Bear showed off his climbing skills as he was spotted in a tree and photographed as he descended with the skill of a real wild bear.


Otto had climbed up this tree and looked very comfy there.


Maybe he decided it was time for a snack. He started to climb down.


Bear cub paws and claws are made for tree climbing – up or down.


Otto looks to see how much farther to the ground.


Made it! Now to find some food.

It is amazing that a little cub like Otto, orphaned before he had a chance to learn the tree climbing lesson from his mother, is able to climb easily and skillfully.  It shows how much of a bear’s behavior is instinctive.







The curators have mounted a trail cam in the Acclimation Pen that is Hawkins’ temporary home.  The images allow them to monitor his health without going closer and causing him undue stress.  Hawkins never fails to show them he has no use for humans, even though they are providing his food!  Here is a great selfie that he took.


“In your face,” here is the selfie of Hawkins Bear.

The cubs were a bit skittish, hugging the treeline in their Wild Enclosure.


It was hard to see them. That black shape could be a cub – or something else.

Rollo - Otto

Rollo ventures out to forage. Otto follows.

Rollo - Otto

The two cubs forage side by side in the clearing.


Something – a noise or a whiff – alarmed Rollo, Both cubs beat a hasty retreat.

Bear cubs, being small, are vulnerable when they are on the ground like this.  It doesn’t take much to send them scurrying into the underbrush or up a tree.  That strategy will keep them safe when they return to the wild.



This post features Rollo prominently, because he was more visible than Otto during the curator’s short photo session.  Someone had said he was “just a little peanut,” and these photos prove that he is small, but not THAT small.


Rollo came out from behind a tree to forage.

Small cubs, like Rollo and Otto, never get too far from the safety of trees and underbrush.  Climbing and hiding are their best means of defense.  When they come to forage, the cubs stay close to cover so they can retreat quickly.


Here is the annotated photo that proves Rollo is bigger than a peanut.


Rollo in profile. Handsome little bear cub!

Rollo - Otto

Otto’s “Meerkat” pose is typical of a bear trying to get a better sense of what caught his attention.

The cubs are foraging well and eating to grow big and strong.  They are getting larger.

Dani Bear made a brief appearance in the underbrush.  Yearlings, like cubs, stay hidden a great deal of the time.  Summitt Bear was completely hidden this time.


Dani Bear was spotted when the grass moved as she walked through.

Finally, we see Hawkins Bear working on growing and recovering.


Hawkins has a very healthy appetite. He’s a growing bear!

The bears – cubs and yearlings – are doing well.  It won’t be long before the yearlings will be ready for release back into the wild.

Otto and Rollo Bear, our five-month-old cubs, seem to be happy in their Wild Enclosure.  They have adjusted well to a habitat that is very much like what their home will be when they are released.  They are behaving just like bears, proving that much of the bear behavior we observe in wild bears is instinctive.

Otto - Rollo

Otto and Rollo, like all bear cubs, spend a lot of time in trees. Here they are climbing down.


Otto reaches the ground first and is off to forage.


Rollo joins him and they forage together.

Rollo - Otto

Something – a sound or whiff – startles Otto. Cubs startle easily.

Since they are small and are vulnerable on the ground, bear cubs remain constantly on guard.  In the wild with their mother, the sow would be watching over them, but our little cubs must watch out for themselves.

Rollo - Otto

Otto decides it was a false alarm and he goes back to foraging.

It’s good to see these two cubs together, just being bears.  They are improving their skills and preparing for their release when they are big enough.



Although ABR has had an excellent success rate in terms of cubs released from our care, we are fully aware that when dealing with wildlife, there are times when sad things happen and our efforts are not enough.

In our last post we mentioned that Curator David had to leave suddenly.  The reason for his departure was the report of a cub in need.  He met the TWRA officer near Townsend, where a small cub was lying in a ditch, not moving.  The cub’s mother and two siblings were nearby, watching as a rescue was attempted.  It was obvious that this tiny cub (much smaller than the other two) was very sick.  The mother tried to help him, but she couldn’t do any more for this smallest and weakest of her cubs.

The cub was taken to UT College of Veterinary Medicine, and became ABR #264.  He was treated by Dr. Sheldon, so was named Sheldon in her honor.  Sheldon Bear stayed overnight in ICU at the vet school.  The hope was that by stabilizing his blood sugar levels and temperature there might be a chance for recovery.  But in the wee hours of the morning, Sheldon had a seizure followed by more seizures.  Blood tests revealed that he had a massive infection in his nervous system that probably was the reason for his small size (he weighed just 6 pounds).  Curator David said his siblings appeared to be about three times his size.  When it was not possible to control the seizures, the decision was made to humanely end to his suffering.

Although Sheldon Bear never made it to ABR, he became one of our bears, so we offer his sad story in photos.

Sheldon's family

Sheldon Bear’s family watches his rescue.

Sheldon's mother

Sheldon’s mother hangs back, watching. She could do no more for him.


Bear #264, Sheldon Bear in transport carrier.


Sheldon Bear being examined at UT.

Sheldon Bear

Sheldon Bear at UT.

Our hearts are broken.  We hoped against hope that we would be able to help this tiny cub, but he was too sick.  As we said in the title, not all stories are happy.  This is one of the sad ones, but at least we know that he died peacefully and without suffering any more than he had already suffered in his young life.

Our next post will be a happy one.


We have photos of Hawkins Bear today, taken by Curator David just before he had to leave the ABR facility rather suddenly.  You will remember that Hawkins is a yearling who arrived at ABR after being hit by a car in Hawkins County on June 6th.  Taken to the UT College of Veterinary Medicine for his exam, it was found that he had no broken bones, but had scrapes and bruises that were causing him pain.  He was placed into an Acclimation Pen at ABR and has remained there.

For the first couple of weeks he stayed on the platform, not climbing or moving around very much.  In fact, the curators fed him on the platform, using a cable system to hoist the food and drinking water up to where he was.  He was a hungry bear, and ate his food eagerly.  He was also a wild little bear who didn’t like the humans, and behaved like a typical bear, huffing and blowing his displeasure.  The curators managed to get a pool up on the platform for Hawkins to soak in and cool off.

Hawkins has made steady progress, coming down to eat on the floor of his Acclimation Pen and showing that he is able to climb much better now.  It has surprised the curators that Hawkins has yet to protest the confinement.  We can only surmise that his body tells him that rest is what he still needs.  Here are the photos that Curator David took.


Hawkins Bear sitting on his platform.


Hawkins stood up and David captured a different pose.

As David went by the pen a few moments later, he saw that Hawkins had come down to eat.  This was the first time the bear had been observed eating.  They knew he was coming down, because the food disappeared, but this was proof positive.


Curator David was able to get a quick photo of Hawkins eating.


After his meal, Hawkins climbed back up to take a nap on his platform.

Everyone is glad that this injured bear is doing so well.  It was touch and go for him at first, but now it seems that he is on the way to a full recovery.