KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Three bear cubs were rescued over the weekend from the crawl space of a Sevier County home were put back where they were found on Wednesday.
Appalachian Bear Rescue was called Saturday, Feb. 13, about a bear denning under a house in Sevier County. The property owner had detected a gas leak and called the gas company to turn off the gas and get the line repaired. When the repair crew arrived and crawled under the house, they saw “the ample caboose of a very large snoozing bear.”
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency was notified immediately and Sgt. David Sexton went to the scene to assess the situation. Initially, the large mammal was thought to be male, and no cubs were heard
“There was no way to know if the gas injured the bear, there was no way to safely repair the gas line while the bear was in residence, and there was no way to keep the home warm and habitable without repairing the gas line,” ABR said.
The next day, Sunday, Feb. 14 TWRA returned to the home to encourage the big bear to leave. The bear finally left, but what they thought was a big male bear was actually a “huge” female bear and three very young female cubs.
The officers were able to call and get supplies from ABR for the tiny cubs, which were safely removed from under the home and were kept warm in a basket with warm towels provided by the homeowners.
Sgt. Sexton watched to see if the mother bear would attempt to return, but she did not.
On Wednesday, the TWRA put out a video. In that video, officials say the gas line was repair and Sgt. Sexton says the homeowner is being gracious and is allowing ABR to return the bear cubs to the den.
“We’re going to put these cubs back with mom, we’re very excited to be able to do that. The best place for any wildlife is with their mother,” said Sexton.
TWRA and ABR put portable heating pads in a box along with towels to keep the cubs warm until the mother returned to them.
As wildlife officials put the cubs back through a vent on the backside of the crawlspace, the mother heard their squeals and took them back to where she was laying.
Officials say this was the best-case scenario. They expect the mother will remain denned under the home for at least another month.