River Guide’s Unprecedented Rescue: Baby Bear Finds Safe Harbor on Raft

In an extraordinary act of kindness and bravery, a river guide navigated an abandoned baby bear to safety on his raft from the waters of the Smoky Mountains.

The five-month-old American black bear, which had been battling for survival alone for several days, was sighted by Danny Allen, a guide from High Mountain Expeditions.

Noli Bear, a 14lb, five-month-old American black bear was rescued from the edge of the Nolichucky River near Erwin, Tennessee, on Thursday

Allen spotted the 14lb cub, now endearingly named Noli Bear, in honor of her rescue location, the Nolichucky River near Erwin, Tennessee.


For four consecutive days, the sight of the helpless bear moved Allen, prompting him to draw his raft to the river’s edge, where Noli Bear climbed aboard.

Noli bear was picked up by river guide Danny Allen (pictured), of High Mountain Expeditions, on the side of the Nolichucky River near Erwin, Tennessee, on Thursday

Matt Moses, the owner of USA Raft, shared images of this incredible rescue and detailed the situation leading to Noli Bear’s safe retrieval.

Moses revealed to the Knoxville News Sentinel, “Over four days, we sighted the bear and found no evidence of its mother.


The cub seemed malnourished and distressed, causing worry among my guides. The thought of the bear dying by the river was unbearable.”

River guides said Noli Bear had been struggling on the side of the river for several days, and with each day she became more comfortable with human interaction. On Thursday she climbed into Allen’s raft

As days passed, Noli Bear became more accustomed to human presence. Her desperate need for help led her to the surprising decision to swim towards one of their rafts, Moses further explained. This marked the first recorded instance of a bear voluntarily boarding a raft.

Post-rescue, Noli Bear was entrusted to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which subsequently placed her under the care of the Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend.


This institution has a commendable record of nursing orphaned or injured bears back to health and returning them to their natural habitat since 1996.

After Noli bear – named after the river she was rescued from – was seen four days in a row, she climbed into Allen’s raft when he pulled to the river’s edge
Allen took Noli Bear to Matt Moses, who owns USA Raft Company and together they contacted Tennessee Wildlife Resources

Dana Dodd, the board president of the Appalachian Bear Rescue, shared that Noli Bear is on the road to recovery, able to walk and feed herself.

“She loves grapes and applesauce, both excellent for her as they have high water content,” Dodd said. The cub was dehydrated when found and received fluids at the University of Tennessee Veterinary School.


Following a week’s rest and provided her faculties like climbing, hearing, and seeing are intact, Noli Bear might join four other cubs in a larger enclosure.

Moses said Noli Bear (pictured here with Allen) was obviously malnourished and appeared to be in distress
Noli Bear was taken by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to the Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend. Staff took her to University of Tennessee Veterinary School to be treated for dehydration

Dodd clarified, “She’ll stay in an acclimatization area until we’re sure there are no residual effects of her ordeal like dehydration and possible heat stroke.”

Noli Bear will be reintroduced into the wild once she weighs 50lb, expected between August and December. The exact release location, likely close to where she was discovered, will be determined by TWRA.


Dodd emphasized that despite the positive outcome in this case, the public should only intervene indirectly when encountering distressed wildlife.

“If you spot an animal in need, contact TWRA immediately. Personal intervention is dangerous for both the animal and the person,” she warned.

Dana Dodd, board president of the Appalachian Bear Rescue, said Noli Bear is recovering and is walking
In about a week, after she is climbing, hearing and seeing well, Noli Bear might be put into an area that houses four other cubs
‘She will have to stay in the acclimatization area until we can’t see any more of her neurological conditions,’ said Dodd. ‘Like dehydration and possibly heat stroke’
Noli Bear will likely stay at Appalachian Bear Rescue until some time between August and the end of the year
Matt Moses, who owns USA Raft Company, said he had never heard of a bear climbing into a river guide’s raft before, as Noli Bear did
Noli Bear has been eating grapes and apple sauce, both of which are filled with water and help combat her dehydration
There was no sign of Noli Bear’s mother when she was rescued. After she is rehabilitated, she will be released into the wild, likely in an area near where she was found
Dana Dodd, board president of the Appalachian Bear Rescue, warned the public that it is dangerous to approach animals in the wild, as the river guides had with Noli Bear

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