In April 2011, ABR cub #134 was picked up by visitors and transferred to rangers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then transported to ABR.
Upon admittance, the tiny cub weighed just 3.5 pounds and was in extremely poor condition. In addition to those problems, her eyes appeared to be sunken into her head (likely because of dehydration and lack of good nutrition) and one eye was judged to be blind.
What a challenge she presented!
Cub #134 was housed in a small carrier, befitting her small size, and received Pedialyte to aid in hydration as well as the special formula offered to the smallest cubs in our care. This formula is especially formulated for wildlife, and contains a high fat content to replicate a bear’s milk.
A veterinarian who works with ABR examined Cub #134 and determined that one eye was, indeed, blind, and the other eye was injured. The veterinarian prescribed ointments to be applied to the eyes. We were uncertain if the bear would regain full vision to the injured eye. Her fate was in question as a blind bear simply could not be released in the wild.
This cub proved to be a fighter! She responded well to the formula, which was fed to her every two or three hours, first in a syringe, and then in a bottle. After a time, she was able to lap the formula from a dish, and was ready to try other soft foods such as yogurt and applesauce. Placing the small carrier in a pen allowed her more room to explore. Her injured eye also began to improve.
After two months at ABR, the cub was introduced into a still larger pen, and to some other orphaned cubs. As she continued to grow, this cub became quite a force in the hierarchy of the pen. She was frequently seen playing with other cubs in the pen and demonstrating the ability to compete with other bears and survive in the wild.
Although her blind eye did not recover, the other eye seemed to be functioning well. An examination by veterinarians at The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine determined that she could be released and would be able to live as a wild bear! After 198 days at ABR, Cub #134 gained 79 pounds. She was released with two other orphaned cubs back into the park.
Since 2003, ABR has successfully rehabilitated 25 bears just from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for release back into the park.
*Grand Total Rescues to date: 180 bears!