Three tiny bear cubs would have likely died if people hadn't spotted them huddled together near a town in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria.
Their mom was nowhere to be found.
“Our experience shows that in more than 90 percent of the cases in which little bears are found in the wild, the mother has been chased or shot by poachers," Dimitar Ivanov, manager of the Belitsa Bear Sanctuary, which is run by Four Paws and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, said in a statement. "They were alone for nearly 24 hours, and during that time they hadn’t eaten or absorbed any liquids."
The cubs are just 3 months old and very tiny — the heaviest of the three weighs just over 6.5 lbs (that's smaller than the average house cat). And because they're so small, they need to be watched over 24/7 at the bear sanctuary.
Their mother would normally be feeding them frequently, so rescuers are bottle-feeding them a special mix of goat's milk with vitamins added to help them get strong.
"Taking care of orphaned bears by humans is extremely difficult," Ivanov added.
Part of the difficulty of hand-raising bears so young has to do with how much human contact to give them. On the one hand, the bear cubs need constant care; on the other, rescuers don't want the babies to get too used to people — they want them to eventually be able to go back to the wild.
Their carers are hopeful that they will strike the right balance for the future of these tiny bears.
Once their health fully stabilizes, the cubs will be transported to a special rehabilitation center in Greece that has a "bear school," which specializes in preparing young orphaned cubs for release back into the wild.
Their rescuers have the highest hopes for the future of these special siblings. “These bears now have the best possible chance of survival and rehabilitation that humans can provide,” Ivanov added.
To help Four Paws care for these special little bears, you can make a donation.