Meet Big Al and Aubie, motherless bears rescued in the wild

Two six-week old black bears found motherless in Alabama are being taken care of by Appalachian...
Two six-week old black bears found motherless in Alabama are being taken care of by Appalachian Bear Rescue, which has named them Big Al and Aubie.(Source: Appalachian Bear Rescue)
Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 2:15 PM CST
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TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WSFA) - A set of tiny black bear cubs recently found motherless by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or ADCNR, is now being cared for around the clock by an organization in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.

Organizers of Appalachian Bear Rescue, a non-profit organization that does just as its name suggests, aren’t content to refer to the fuzzy siblings simply as “Rescue Bear #329 and #330,” though.

You’ll barely (or is that bearly?) contain yourself when you see the photos of Big Al and his little sister, Aubie, named for the mascots of the state’s biggest universities/football rivalries.

Big Al and Aubie are only two months old and weigh just five pounds right now. But that will change quickly as they grow into massive adults. They’re being fed bear milk replacement formula every four hours, as work continues in Alabama to find possible foster mother(s) back home.

A curator with Appalachian Bear Rescue holds Big Al and Aubie, sibling black bear cubs found...
A curator with Appalachian Bear Rescue holds Big Al and Aubie, sibling black bear cubs found motherless in Alabama. The goal is to get them back into the wild as soon as possible.(Source: Appalachian Bear Rescue)

It’s unclear exactly where the cubs were found, but officers with the ADCNR transported them both to the bear rescue organization Tuesday. A team from The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine then examined them and found both to be in good health.

“Routine is important to very young cubs in captivity,” the organization said Friday. “They need to feel food secure, warm and safe. However, at their age, it’s easy to habituate them to humans, ruining their chance of returning to the wild.”

They’re cute and cuddly, but they’re not getting human cuddles as much as some people would like to volunteer for it. ABR knows it’s racing against the clock if it’s going to return them to the wild. That’s because they naturally bond to whoever is feeding them.

“The curators work quickly and silently to care for the little bears, only entering the Cub Nursery to feed them and clean their pens,” ABR officials said. Otherwise, they’re kept at a distance, monitored through remote security cameras.

The ultimate goal is to return these wild bears to the wild.

“Our intervention in their lives is well-intentioned; the cubs couldn’t survive on their own without our help,” ABR said. “We strive to return them to the wild as soon as possible so our good intentions don’t affect their future as wild bears.”

In the meantime, Big Al and Aubie are the focus of an intense rivalry to see which can raise the most money to support the non-profit’s work at returning bears to the wild.

Organizers have set up the ABR Cubby Iron Bowl Challenge, which has raised more than $6,000 so far.

Donate to Big Al Bear:

Donate to Aubie Bear:

ABR was founded in 1996 and is located in the town of Townsend, Tennessee, just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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