A bear cub injured by an automobile is back with his family and doing fine.
Last week, an article in the Apalachicola and Carrabelle Times entitled “Bears, bears everywhere” featured a photo of a mother bear and cub. The cub was one of three being successfully raised by a bear sow in Carrabelle, a tribute to this year’s bumper crop of acorns.
The night before the Times article was released, disaster struck when the cub was hit by a car at around 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Dec. 12.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Technician Ron Copley went in search of the injured cub and found him about 50 yards into the woods, not far from the scene of the accident.
Copley tranquilized the cub using a dart gun and examined it. The 100 pound cub had a bloody nose and a broken leg but seemed otherwise unhurt.
Copley took the cub home and with the help of his twin grandsons, 13-year-olds Thomas and Jackson Copley Subbarao of Eastpoint, he splinted the cub’s leg and put it into a pen for observation. The boys were a little nervous at first but soon warmed up to the task of helping the cub.
On Thursday morning, the bear was sitting up and alert. “He was in a lot of pain and didn’t fight us but Adam gave him a syringe of shot to calm him and make him more comfortable,” said Copley.
FWC Wildlife Biologist Adam Warwick contacted Dr. Norm Griggs of the Shepherd Springs Animal Hospital in Crawfordville, who agreed to treat the bear pro bono. On Thursday evening, the cub was taken to the hospital where Griggs performed surgery to reset the bone and inserted a metal rod into the broken leg. The cub was nicknamed Thomas in honor of Copley’s grandson.
The surgery went well and Thomas was brought back to Copley’s house to await release. Thomas was observed on Friday and Saturday. He was given dry dog food and a pan of water, and made rapid progress.
Thomas and his family frequently visit several large oak trees in the vicinity of the accident. On Saturday evening, Warwick worked with Copley, his wife Terri, and the twins to take Thomas back to the site and place him at the edge of the woods in a cage.
As if on cue, Thomas’s family appeared at dusk.
“We waited about an hour when the mother and the other cubs came out of the woods and went directly to the cage where the injured cub was being held,” said Copley. “They climbed on the cage sniffing all around. Adam and I slowly went to the cage, and pulled the cable releasing the injured cub Thomas. Making low grunting noises (he) ran straight into the woods where his mom and siblings were waiting. Adam and I watched all four bears for a while, then left so they could get to the acorns they were after.”
As if by a miracle, Thomas was successfully returned to his mother.
Warwick said the bear is expected to avoid using the leg for two or three weeks and it will remain sore for a longer stretch. Griggs predicted a full recovery.
Copley said the experience was thrilling for his entire family. The twins were ecstatic when Thomas’s mother emerged from the woods. He said Jackson and Thomas - the grandson not the bear - have both talked in the past about becoming wildlife officers, and the experience was educational for the pair, eighth graders at the Franklin County School.
Copley said the cub’s plight has generated a lot of interest in Carrabelle. He said he has been stopped by people who want to know Thomas’s condition. Several folks were concerned the bear would be euthanized. Everyone can rest easy. Against all odds, Thomas made it home safe and sound and he’ll probably look both ways before crossing the street again.
“He was never aggressive during the whole ordeal,” said Copley. “I can’t even guess the odds of him making it back home.”
Copley and Warwick will be keeping an eye on Thomas over the rest of the winter. Right now he is easily recognizable because of his shaved leg.
If you see him, please give Ron Copley a call at 323-1017 and let him know if Thomas is on the mend.