CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – After authorities relocated a bear cub found in Elizabethton, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) said similar cases may crop up in the area.

“Female bears with cubs are starting to emerge from dens in search of food,” Janelle Musser, TWRA black bear support biologist, said. “Bear cubs born in February are still dependent on their mother this time of year. Cubs can become temporarily separated from their mothers for many reasons or female bears may stash their cubs in an area and return after they forage for food themselves.”

In Elizabethton’s case, Musser said there was a chance that the cub was placed in a tree intentionally.

“Elizabethton is adjacent to bear habitat and it is common for bears to travel through the area,” Musser said. “It is possible the female bear may have returned to this cub during the night, but the cub was removed from the wild by individuals before that could happen.”

“Due to the uncertainty of the female bear returning and people interfering with the natural behavior of bears, the decision was made to place the bear in the care of Appalachian Bear Rescue, the only entity licensed in the state of Tennessee to care for and rehabilitate black bears.”

In the future, Musser encouraged local residents to keep an eye on cubs found in the area before reporting them.

“TWRA does not typically intervene until cubs have been alone for 36 hours,” Musser said. “They can survive this time period and it allows the female bear a chance to return.”

If a bear cub appears to have been orphaned or injured, however, Musser said reporting it to TWRA is the right first step. According to the agency’s website, a few signs can indicate that a bear cub has been orphaned:

  • An estimated weight under 30 pounds.
  • Missing fur on top of a cub’s head between its ears.
  • Skin abscesses and pale gums due to malnutrition.

Those who suspect a bear cub may be in danger can contact their local TWRA representatives at 423-587-7037 or via email at