Rescuers descended into a deep cave to rescue a trapped dog – then they found a bear

Oct 14, 2023, 11:58 AM

(CNN) — Firefighters encountered an unexpected challenge while rescuing a dog trapped in a Tenne...

Charlie was trapped in the cave for three days. (Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department)

(Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department)

(CNN) — Firefighters encountered an unexpected challenge while rescuing a dog trapped in a Tennessee cave: A black bear was also there.

The dog, Charlie, spent three days trapped nearly 40 feet deep in an “extremely narrow cave shaft” on English Mountain in eastern Tennessee, according to a Facebook post from the Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

A rescue team consisting of “rope rescue technicians” from several fire departments set off on the mission to free Charlie on Tuesday, the Facebook post says. The team hiked to the mouth of the cave, where firefighter Tori Downing and captain Jon Lanier descended into the cave.

“Things took a turn when Firefighter Downing rounded a corner and found a bear sleeping five feet below her and the trapped hunting dog farther in the cave system,” reads the Facebook post.

Charlie’s unwitting companion was a 2-year-old black bear weighing an estimated 200 pounds, according to the Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

The rescue team left the cave and set up trail cameras to track when the bear left the cave, the Facebook post says.

On Wednesday, they determined that the bear “had left the cave and not returned.”

With the cave “bear-free,” the stage was set for Charlie’s rescue. Three firefighters descended into the cave on a rope system. But initially, it seemed they would still be unable to retrieve the trapped canine.

“At first, we actually thought the dog had slipped further into the cave where we couldn’t access,” Lanier said, according to CNN affiliate WVLT. “It was kinda sad because we felt like we were gonna have to leave the dog there.”

“As we’re about to head back out, I looked back one more time and I saw his antenna from his tracker collar,” another firefighter, Christian Ellard, said, according to WVLT.

Charlie was “dehydrated and hungry, but in otherwise good condition,” says the Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

The rescue team “fashioned a harness for the dog and effected the rescue,” the department explained. “Charlie was quickly reunited with his happy owner.”

The department included a photo of a volunteer emerging from the narrow cave mouth with Charlie in his arms and a shot of the rescued pup with four members of the rescue team.

Firefighters with Charlie the dog. (Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department)

“It was definitely a sigh of relief for everybody on scene,” said Andrew Wojturski, a firefighter with Sevier County Fire & Rescue, according to WVLT. “And then once we finally got him out and the owner came up afterwards and shook our hands and thanked us, it was really rewarding.”

In their Facebook post, the Waldens Creek Volunteer Fire Department thanked “the entire rescue team and people who worked together to make this happen.”

“It was truly a team effort that required all these departments to make it a success,” they said.

English Mountain is near Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, described by the National Park Service as “one of the largest protected areas in the eastern United States where black bears can live in wild, natural surroundings.” An estimated 1,900 bears live in the park.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


A mountain lion shows its teeth, a sign of aggression....

Mariah Maynes

What do you do if you encounter a mountain lion?

As more people begin to participate in summer recreation activities, the DWR provided tips for preventing and surviving mountain lion encounters.

1 day ago

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is increasing the fish limit at Fall Creek and it's tributa...

Tammy Kikuchi

Fishing limit will increase ahead of lake poisonings

Before the Utah Division of Natural Resources can poison and reset, they are increasing the limit from 4 to 16 fish.

8 days ago

A large walleye caught in Lake Powell. Fish like this one have been illegally introduced to Strawbe...

Tammy Kikuchi

Reward offered for Strawberry Walleye invasion

The DWR is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person who illegally introduced walleye fish to Strawberry Reservoir.

9 days ago

Cadillac, a mare at Upper Creek Ranch, delivered "one in a million" twins on Mother's Day. ...

Britt Johnson

“One in a million” twin horses born on Mother’s Day

It was a Mother's Day miracle! The mare, Cadillac, was expecting a foal.  No one knew she was expecting twins. 

10 days ago

The design for the new Great Salt Lake license plate includes a pelican flying across the Great Sal...

Ben Winslow, Fox 13

Specialty Great Salt Lake license plate needs support to become reality

A new license plate that would focus on the Great Salt Lake could be made with the help of Utahns who sign up to make the plate a reality.

13 days ago

Utah's Morning News host Tim Hughes discusses how to talk turkey and other requirements you'll need...

Tim Hughes

It’s not too late to hunt turkeys in Utah

Twice a year, Utah allows you to participate in wild turkey hunting. The spring hunting season continues through May 31. 

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Rescuers descended into a deep cave to rescue a trapped dog – then they found a bear