Rafting guide Danny Allen of High Mountain Expeditions was photographed last week paddling down the Nolichucky River near the North Carolina and Tennessee border with an abandoned bear cub in tow.
The 5-month-old female cub had been spotted multiple times over the past few days, and guides were worried for the bear’s chances for survival.
"We had seen this bear over the last four days, and there was no sight of a mama bear," Matt Moses, the owner of USA Raft Company -- where Allen initially took the cub -- told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "She was obviously malnourished and appeared to be in distress. My guides kept coming back to me and saying they had no idea what to do. We didn’t want to see this bear die on the side of the river."
Allen rafted by the bear on Thursday and the cub climbed right in, he told local news station WLVT.
"We picked her up and brought her down here in this same boat that we're in right now. Very skinny for her size, for the age she is, she should have been twice her size,” he said.
Allen brought the cub to Moses’ property in Erwin, Tennessee, and called the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, who transported the bear to black bear rehabilation center Appalachian Bear Rescue.
ABR staff named the cub "Noli Bear" after the Nolichucky River.
Noli was "severely dehydrated and lethargic," but has had a great appetite since her arrival at the facility.
"I’m absolutely confident she’ll be able to be released back into the wild," ABR spokeswoman Dana Dodd told The Dodo.
"If you see wildlife in trouble, you should always contact your local wildlife officials and let them take care of it," she said.
The facility said in another post that it is grateful for the attention Noli has received and hopes her story helps bring more attention to bear rescue efforts. "We fight centuries of myth and misconception regarding these wonderful animals, and hope that this publicity, as short-lived as it will be, will encourage people to learn more about black bears," the post said. "With knowledge, comes respect."
Follow Noli’s recovery on the Appalachian Bear Rescue Facebook page.