When a Tennessee homeowner noticed a gas leak on his property, he quickly called for repairs. But when repairmen showed up, they discovered the leak wasn’t due to the usual wear-and-tear. As repairmen investigated the cause of the rupture, they realized the basement crawl space was being used as a makeshift den by a sleeping bear family.
Both the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and Appalachian Bear Rescue quickly dispatched rescuers to the scene, where they carefully removed three tiny cubs. But in the commotion, the mama bear fled, leaving rescuers to believe they’d probably be raising the cubs on their own.
“Reunion with their mother is next to impossible,” rescuers wrote at the on at the time. “It’s likely mother bear was responsible for the gas leak that started the chain of events that led to her three cubs arriving at [Appalachian Bear Rescue].”
Rescuers next best option was to bottle feed the cubs until they were old enough to be placed with a foster bear family, although this method also involves some risks. “Regardless, she can’t continue to use the crawl space as a den,” rescuers explained, “and the cubs are too young to be moved around in the cold.”
But the mama bear surprised everyone by coming back to the house the following day in search of her cubs, whom rescuers had named Jasmine, Jeannie, and Magic Bear.
“On February 16, 2021, we wrote in reference to the three little cubs: Reunion with their mother is next to impossible,” rescuers said, recalling their earlier Facebook comments. “We’re happy we didn’t say it was flat-out impossible, though everything pointed to it being so. With all the humans going in and out of the crawl space, we were sure she’d never come back. But she did. And we’re happy she did. Learning never ends.”
This unexpected turn of events led rescuers to develop a new plan. Rather than trying to place the cubs in foster bear families, they asked the homeowner to let the bear family to wait out winter together in their makeshift “den.” Thankfully, the homeowner said ‘yes.’
“The best place for any young wildlife is with its mother, obviously,” TWRA rescuer Dan Gibbs explained in a video detailing this rescue operation. Rescuers believed the mother bear will take her growing family back out into the wild upon the arrival of spring.
“She’s a good size and she was obviously ready to come and get her young,” another rescuer, Coy Blair, explained in the following video. Indeed, the mother bear quickly grabbed each of her tiny cub as rescuers passed them through an open vent leading into her designated “den.”
We’ve never heard of a bear nursing cubs beneath a house before, but we’re glad the homeowner agreed to this unique living situation in order to keep this bear family together!