Just call him Goldilocks.
A hunting dog was rescued Wednesday after falling into a narrow cave shaft in eastern Tennessee and becoming stuck nearly 40 feet below ground. And as if those conditions weren’t treacherous enough, the team working to save the canine had found that he was sharing the English Mountain cave with a black bear.
“As I rounded the corner, I could see two little bear feet and a quite large claw grasping onto the wall beside him,” firefighter Tori Downing told local news station WVLT of a Tuesday rescue attempt.
The dog, named Charlie, was stuck farther along in the cave system, past the much larger slumbering animal. The bear, estimated to be about 2 years old and 200 pounds, was “happily sleeping and apparently not too concerned about his ‘cave mate,’” Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department said on Facebook.
After consulting with the state wildlife agency, rescuers determined that the safest option was to leave the bear “alone to come out on his own,” the department wrote. They set up a trail camera to keep a lookout in case the large animal exited the dwelling.
When the bear eventually left, a team of people from multiple fire and rescue crews descended far enough down to get to Charlie, put a harness on him and take him to safety.
Following his three days in the cave, Charlie was “dehydrated and hungry, but in otherwise good condition” and was “quickly reunited with his happy owner,” the Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department wrote.
“It was definitely a sigh of relief for everybody on scene,” Sevier County Fire & Rescue firefighter Andrew Wojturski told WVLT.
English Mountain is close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which CNN notes is home to about 1,900 bears.
As for Charlie’s bear in particular, the fire department noted on Facebook that he’s “fine.” Hopefully he’s enjoying having the cave to himself again.