SERVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two bear cubs were rescued by a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer and local residents Monday.
Neighbors off of Shell Mountain Road said they first saw a family of bears, a momma bear and two cubs, roaming the area the week before.
Katrina Milligan, one of the residents, saw the family of bears on Friday. She said they were heading down the mountain, and not too long after losing sight of the bears, she heard one gunshot.
“They ran across our driveway and then they went down the hill, down the mountain and unfortunately we heard a gunshot. From that time on we only saw, we never saw momma again,” Milligan said.
Milligan wasn’t sure if any of the bears were shot, but after that, she and her neighbors only saw the two cubs in the neighborhood.
She started to reach out to all of her neighbors, asking them to keep an eye out on the baby bears.
Milligan called Appalachian Bear Rescue, who then got Milligan in contact with TWRA.
According to TWRA and ABR, a sow bear will often leave her cubs to find food, but she will return within a day or two.
“You have to give mom a chance to come back because it’s possible that you don’t see her, but she’s not that far away, and so you never want to orphan a bear by accident,” Dana Dodd, with ABR, said.
TWRA officers came out to investigate, but didn’t find anything.
“Our officers investigated the report of residents seeing a sow bear and cubs go over a hill on Shell Mountain Road and hearing several gunshots in that direction. They interviewed people in the area and have not located a dead bear, but say that a few cubs have been seen for three days in the same area without a mother. Officers have traps set in an attempt to capture the cubs,” Matt Cameron, spokesperson for TWRA, said.
Milligan said she and her neighbors kept a lookout for the cubs, and on Monday morning, one was found up in a tree.
A TWRA officer was able to catch the cub safely. The officer said he believed the cub was about two or three months old, and that it would be transferred to ABR.
About 30 minutes after the officer left, the other cub was spotted in the same area.
A resident said the bear was almost in the trap that the officer previously set for it, but then a truck drove down the road and scared it off into a tree.
The residents were able to track the cub down a steep slope and up a tree.
Killigan was back at the scene, keeping an eye on the cub while the TWRA officer headed back.
Once the officer arrived, he made his way down the steep slope and with the help of the residents and the smell of its’ sibling, the cub was captured safely.
ABR wouldn’t confirm whether they were receiving the cubs.
Dodd said that whenever someone sees a bear cub, the first thing people should do is call TWRA dispatch at 800-831-1174.
She said the next important step is to keep your distance. If the mother is around and sees a lot of people gathering around her cub, it might deter her from getting any closer.
She added that if someone sees a bear near their home and they have animals, bring the animals inside because they also might deter the momma bear from returning.
Dodd said never try to catch the bear, not matter how small it is. Leave that to the trained officers.
She also said that bears develop habits, so one way to help the officers find a bear cub is to pay attention to the time and place the bear is usually seen.
Dodd said the best advice they can really give people when they come in contact with a cub, or bear in general, is to call and wait for wildlife officers.
“Every time you get too close to a bear, or you leave food unsecured when you live in bear country or you visit bear country, you are potentially killing the very bear that you want to be near and see,” Dodd said.