Brandon Poole made the startling discovery in Westminster, S.C. The cubs are getting the attention they need before they can return to the wild.

He initially thought they were puppies - but they were actually bears.

A volunteer firefighter in South Carolina saved the lives of three bear cubs last week after finding them in a cardboard box on the side of a road in Westminster, S.C.

“I thought it was little puppies in that little box, so I got closer to it, I noticed I heard squealing so I thought it was baby pigs," Brandon Poole told News 13. "I got closer and picked one up. It was three baby bears."

Poole took the bear cubs to his fire station and called the state's Department of Natural Resources. The DNR examined the cubs, sending two to the Appalachian Bear Rescue in Townsend, Tenn., and one to the Charles Towne Landing state park in Charleston, S.C. The cubs will remain at their respective facilities until they are ready to return to the wild.

"Bennie and Jerry are both healthy and eating well, though Bennie has had a little more difficulty learning how to feed from a bottle than Jerry," Appalachian Bear Rescue curator Coy Blair said.

While the Appalachian Bear Rescue named their bear cubs and released pictures of them, an official with Charles Towne Landing told the Daily News on Monday that the state park is still evaluating its cub after it had been through such a "traumatic" ordeal. The cubs were born in late January or early February, experts say.

“While we can’t comment on the actual practices of other facilities, caring for bear cubs of any age, but especially cubs of this age, is a very uncertain affair," ABR spokesperson Heather Ripley told the Daily News. "The Appalachian Bear Rescue has historically had great success, but the mortality rate for very young cubs is unfortunately very high.”

Despite the risks, Bennie and Jerry are thriving at the facility, which is posting regular updates on its Facebook page.

“What a difference a week makes!," read a Sunday post. "Sweet Bennie, who had difficulty taking the bottle last week, now behaves like a shark on a feeding frenzy when it's time to eat. Woe unto the curator who is late with the bottle, for a full-blown temper tantrum awaits! It is encouraging to see him have such a healthy appetite, but patience is not one of his virtues."

The young bears can thank firefighter Poole for their progress. While experts usually urge the public not to interfere with animals in nature, Poole did the right thing by rescuing the cubs after someone had already put them in harm's way, Ripley said.

"It felt good, I'm kind of trained to save lives and help, so it felt real good to me," Poole told News 13.


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