Appalachian Wildlife Refuge provides update on black bear cub from viral video

Press release from Appalachian Wildlife Refuge:

After a video went viral earlier this month showing people pulling black bear cubs from a tree to pose for photos, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge has spent the past two weeks caring for and stabilizing one of the animals, which came under the nonprofit’s care the day of the incident.

“This case has understandably brought up feelings of frustration, sadness and anger for many viewers, and we hope the act of witnessing these shocking visuals prompts people to reflect on the very real challenges that wildlife face every day,” Appalachian Wildlife Refuge Executive Director Savannah Trantham said. “The silver lining is that this cub was rescued by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). It is now safe and being well cared for despite being separated from its mom.”

The cub came into the care of Appalachian Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday, April 16, the same day as a now-viral video captured a group of people pulling two bear cubs from a tree in Asheville, NC, and posing for selfies before dropping them on the ground.

“Following a time to adjust to being in our care she was introduced to another orphaned cub that arrived previously. Both cubs are thriving and doing well in care. They are eating well and interacting with enrichment, doing all the things we hope to see with young cubs. Our team has no reason to believe that they won’t make full rehabilitation care to be released as wild bears in the fall.” Says Trantham

Trantham, one of four Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators, recognized by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, in the state of North Carolina, emphasizes that it is important to remember that this case is making news because it involves a bear, but Appalachian Wildlife Refuge sees the impact of similar harmful treatment of wildlife species on a daily basis.

“If all of the turtles, snakes, rabbits, opossums, squirrels, birds, raccoons, and fawns got the same reaction when people harass, steal, and harm them, then we would be winning,” Trantham said. “Unfortunately for us, this cub is only one of many animals that we rehabilitate due to the negative impacts of inappropriate human interactions. That is why this work is so important and valuable, so the public understands the harm that is caused by human interference and joins us in working to promote a healthier, more compassionate co-existence with wildlife.”

Appalachian Wildlife Refuge has rehabilitated black bear cubs with the NCWRC since the spring of 2020. Since accepting the first cubs into care the nonprofit has admitted and cared for 39 injured or orphaned cubs brought into care by the NCWRC’s biologists from all across NC. Bear cubs are cared for in natural habitats, isolated from the busy facility until early to mid-fall when they are identified for release and returned to wild areas close to where they originally came from.

“We have received cubs that are orphans due to mothers being killed by cars or gunshots, the cubs being hit by cars, being entangled or trapped in foreign or even sometimes natural objects and then cases similar to this one where cubs are removed from their space and are unable to reunite with their mother.” Says Trantham. “We always want to see all wild animals left in the wild and be raised by their mothers, but we work hard every day to provide a place for these wild animals to go for those that truly do need our intervention.”

Wildlife are expensive to care for properly. “Bear cubs are one of our most expensive patients that we provide rehabilitative care for.” Trantham shared that one cub can cost the nonprofit upwards of $2,000-$3,000 just in food to get the cub to a healthy release size come fall.

“If we receive a healthy orphaned cub at a young age, we easily see a $2,000-3,000 food bill with the specialized formulas, dry foods, fresh produce, and whole prey items they get in their varied diets. In total we spend about $20,000-$30,000 per season on the cubs we raise from food, and medical expenses, to habitat maintenance and enrichment.” Said Trantham. “They are not only our most expensive patients, but also our most challenging to meet all of their needs and ensure we raise cubs that can be successful as wild bears. The incredible support from our donors and followers makes it possible to provide the space and care for these cubs and all the injured and orphaned wild patients we receive”

“It’s not unusual or necessarily concerning for baby animals to be away from their mothers during the spring and summer. Please leave them where you find them and call our hotline or other professionals with questions and guidance for next steps. Many wild mothers leave their babies in safe spaces while they forage for food and then they return when they know it is time to feed or move their young.
Even though we see them alone and think they must have been orphaned or abandoned in most cases they are right where they are supposed to be.

“Ultimately, wild mothers know best!” Trantham said. “This is the time of year here in western NC where bears are out of their winter dens and teaching their cubs how to be bears! It is a normal occurrence to see a female with cubs trailing behind, as with many of our wild mothers. We encourage everyone to take the incident of these young cubs to heart and treat all wild animals with the respect they deserve.”

The Appalachian Wildlife Refuge facility is one of two licensed black bear cub rehabilitation facilities licensed by the NCWRC. The wildlife facility is closed to the public in order to limit human interaction and maintain the wildness of all the patients in care. In the case of bear cubs, there is a small staff team who are designated to work with these patients while in care. To this end, volunteers and interns never have contact with the bears, keeping them as wild as possible during their rehabilitative stint.

Anyone with questions about wildlife in need can call Appalachian Wildlife Refuge’s wildlife hotline at 828-633-6364, extension 1. To learn more about living responsibly with bears, visit BearWise® and visit the NCWRC’s black bear cub blog to learn more about the agency’s orphaned bear cub program.

Follow Appalachian Wildlife Refuge’s social media channels for updates on all the animals currently in its care. Appalachian Wildlife Refuge provides care to more than 2,000 wild animals each year. To learn more about the care of these animals and how you can support this work, visit

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2 thoughts on “Appalachian Wildlife Refuge provides update on black bear cub from viral video

  1. Nostupid people

    What would’ve been a more common sense thing to do would be to reprimand the people for what they did because humans like most creatures have a default brain sometimes and you can’t fix stupid so you have to penalize folks like that in order to make change

  2. Sue Sparks

    Was the other cub located? Yes, those folks need charged since if the Mother had attacked she would have been euthanized for taking care of her cubs. People do not have any respect or remorse for their actions anymore.

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