An emaciated bear cub is fighting for his life after rescuers discovered him in a ditch near Black Mountain in Harlan County, Kentucky.
It was Valentine’s Day when a group of bystanders spotted the frail, sick bear cub struggling to survive in the mountains.
They flagged down a Kentucky Department of Transportation employee who happened to be driving in the area.
The man quickly called the Appalachian Bear Rescue and stayed with the cub until officials from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources arrived.
The cub was in terrible shape, missing fur on his face and paws, and too weak to try and remove any of the ticks blanketing his fur.
Wildlife officials brought the cub to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, where staff members from the Appalachian Bear Rescue were waiting.
Staff members named the cub Hartley Bear and got to work assessing the sick, dying cub who they said was severely underweight.
“He’s a different case than most,” ABR Executive Director Dana Dodd told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“He’s a yearling, so he’s almost 13 months old, and he should have been in a den with his mother. He was not, and we don’t know why,” Dodd said.
“We’re not sure how long he’d been separated from her either, but he weighs a little less than 12 pounds.”
Dodd said it was still too early to determine if the cub would survive. He is suffering from starvation, covered in ticks and missing large patches of fur.
Hartley’s caretakers have the cub on a slow-going, closely monitored diet of bear milk replacement formula. If they allow Hartley to eat too much too soon, he could die.
“If you presented the bear food, he might eat a whole lot, and if an animal does that too quickly, it can actually kill them because their body has been using any stored fat that it could get out of the body,” Dodd said.
“It’s been converting the body into what it needed to survive, and if it suddenly had lots of carbs and stuff, the metabolism sees such a shock that it could actually kill them.”
The Appalachian Bear Rescue has started fundraising on Hartley’s behalf and said that the community support has been overwhelming.
Hartley has already gained a fanbase of online supporters who are pulling for the little cub to get well soon.
“It’s too soon to say yet,” Dodd said of the bear’s health. “He’s certainly not out of the woods, but every day is a positive.”
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