Black bear captured in Elizabethton continues to prosper

Published 9:29 am Monday, June 26, 2023

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Star Correspondent

A male black bear captured in Elizabethton this spring continues to prosper at Appalachian Bear Rescue near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The bear, named Thumper by the ABR staff, was found wandering near businesses along Broad Street in early April. Local officials captured the bear, which had likely been searching for food in the city, and it was transported to the ABR site in Townsend, Tenn.

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ABR is the only entity licensed in the state of Tennessee to care for and rehabilitate black bears, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The organization originally learned of the bear largely via Facebook messages and social media posts.

The bear was about 10 weeks old and weighed 4.6 pounds when he was first taken to ABR.

On Friday, more than two months after the bear’s capture, ABR Director Dana Dodd said Thumper was doing fine.

“He and FlapJack Bear moved outside to one of our Wild Enclosures this week,” said Dodd, who referred to FlapJack, another bear currently receiving care at ABR.

Thumper now weighs a “whopping” 39 pounds, Dodd said.

Typically, Dodd said bears captured early in the year, like Thumper, are generally released back in the wild in late November and December. ABR and the TWRA determine where to release the bears and do so without any spectators to protect the bears.

ABR currently has 10 bears. Four of the bears are yearlings and six are cubs that were born this year, Dodd said.

The number of bear sightings and bear-human interactions have continued to increase this year.

Janelle Musser, TWRA black bear support biologist, said bear cubs tend to climb trees when they are near humans.

“Bear cubs will remain in a tree until they feel it is safe to climb down, typically when people and vehicles are not around or their mother returns,” Musser said.

The TWRA does not typically intervene until cubs have been alone for 36 hours and their mothers have not returned.

“They can survive this time period and it allows the female bear a chance to return,” Musser said.

Residents should report orphaned or injured bear cubs to the TWRA, and Musser said they should never attempt to capture or feed bear cubs as this can be dangerous and detrimental for people and bears.