2018 Year in Review: Kelsey Pleasants, Wildlife Rehabilitator

It’s time to look back on 2018! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2018 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

My journey at the Wildlife Center of Virginia began back in 2012 as a rehabilitation extern and continued in 2013 when I was the rehabilitation intern.  During my time as the intern, I was lucky enough to help take care of the Black Bear cubs, an incredible experience I was sure I wouldn’t get the chance to do again.  In 2017, I returned (for the third time!) to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, this time as a permanent staff member - one of two wildlife rehabilitators.  I was absolutely thrilled to be back and ecstatic that I once again got to care for baby Black Bears!

They’re incredibly adorable. We all know this is a fact. 

They’re also incredibly curious, feisty, strong, and playful. It never ceases to amaze me how strong a tiny four-pound cub is and how quickly they can climb your body like a tree trunk (ouch!).

I was pretty excited when I officially became a bear mom in April with the arrival of our first two cubs, Orange Tag and Green Tag … and again that same day with two more cubs, Pink Tag and No Tag! Probably the most memorable part of that day for me is leaving the center around 8 pm for a dinner break, returning around 10 pm in anticipation of the cubs’ arrival, then staying until 1:00 am to bottle feed them with rehabilitation intern Shannon.  A rehabilitator’s job doesn’t really have an “end” time! Two days later, we admitted a fifth cub, Red Tag, who we housed with Green and Orange Tags – we deemed them the three “the triplets.” From the beginning, Red Tag stole my heart and remains my favorite cub, tightly competing with sassy Double Pink Tag (don’t tell the other cubs I have favorites).

I won’t lie, being a bear mom is a lot of fun and sometimes the cute is too much to handle.  Part of the cubs’ care when they’re young includes playtime when they’re allowed to explore, be curious, socialize, and roughhouse with the other cubs.  In this important developmental stage, we also introduce them to natural browse that they’ll encounter in the wild as well as bowls of water so they can learn to drink from standing water on their own.  This stage is easily the best part of Black Bear rehabilitation for me. They’re often clumsy balls of energy that run around full-force getting into everything they can put their paws on. I could explode from the cuteness. 



All cuteness aside, taking care of Black Bears is also a lot of hard work.  While our cubs live in our Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, we are required to muck the enclosure every other day, or daily depending on how messy they get … so we go through a LOT of straw! Feeding the cubs is a whole other story … these bears can eat! Currently, we are caring for 15 bears – all of them cubs. Collectively these bears are fed 116 pounds of food EVERY day! That breaks down to a total of 58 pounds of fruit, 18 pounds of vegetables, and 29 pounds of protein. You can’t possibly keep enough grapes in stock to keep these hungry hippos happy!

There is a lot of time, money, and muscle put into bear care, but every penny and drop of sweat is well worth it come spring when the bears get to return to the wild.  It’s easily one of the most rewarding parts of my job and I wouldn’t change a thing about it!


Check out all of our year-in-review posts!

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