Black Bear Cub #13-0389

Admission Date: 
April 10, 2013
Release Date: 
January 27, 2014
Location of Rescue: 
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Smoke inhalation
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On April 10, the Wildlife Center admitted two small Black Bear cubs from Shenandoah National Park. On April 10-11, the Shenandoah National Park completed a 500-acre prescribed burn at Jarman Gap. Prescribed burns are routine procedures that help reduce the threat of major wildfires; they also promote oak and pine regeneration and additional animal food sources.

During the course of the burn, two Black Bear cubs were found injured. Both were immediately transported to the Wildlife Center for treatment. Black Bear cub #13-0388, a male, had significant burns to its paws and legs. Wildlife Center veterinary fellow Dr. Rich Sim treated and bandaged the wounds. Sadly, the cub died later that same evening. Bear cub #13-0389, a female, appeared to be healthy with no burns or singed fur. There were no significant findings on the bear’s radiographs. Dr. Rich suspected that the young bear may have inhaled smoke; the bear will be monitored closely for the next few days.

If the young female continues to do well, she could be transferred to Virginia Tech during the week of April 15. A program at Virginia Tech studies wild Black Bears – the bears are kept for three to four months during their winter dormancy before they are released back into the wild. This year, the program is studying one sow – that gave birth to three cubs this winter. Bear cub #13-0389 would be introduced into its new bear family and released with the sow later this spring. DGIF is also looking at potential wild-fostering situations, depending on if an appropriate denning mother is located.

The cub is currently housed in the Center’s holding room. The rehab staff are bottle-feeding the bear five times a day.

The Center depends on the donations of caring individuals to provide veterinary care to wildlife and training in wildlife veterinary medicine. Please help!

Photo album of 2013 Black Bear patients:

Black Bear patients of 2013


January 27, 2014

On the morning of January 27, two biologists from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries arrived to pick up four bears for release. Dr. Rich, the Center’s veterinary fellow, quickly darted the three bears in transition area #2 – three female bears. Two of the bears were unable to be identified by microchip (but did include Saturday’s escapee bear); the other female was #13-0889.

Dr. Rich also successfully darted a female bear in transition area #1. After the bear was anesthetized, Dr. Rich, Dr. Kristin, and veterinary student Ernesto entered the transition area behind a large wooden “bear blocker” – so they could safely grab the sleeping bear while in the presence of four very awake bears. Dr. Rich was able to quickly grab the anesthetized bear, and tucked her behind the bear blocker as the team shuffled out the door. No microchip information was available for this fourth bear, though, based on appearance and attitude, the staff believe this to be #13-1277.

All four bears were loaded and “reversed” [given an injection of medication to reverse the anesthetic drug]. The four females will be released in a remote area of western Virginia later today.

Black Bear Release #2:  January 27, 2014

Friday’s bear release went well – the bears were eager to leave the bear trap on the back of the DGIF truck. All bears ran off into their new habitat, which was full of many log piles; these are great potential den sites if the bears choose to stay in the immediate area. At this point, we do not have photos of the release.

The next bear release will be on Thursday, January 30. Four bears from transition area #1 will be released on that date.

Certified wildlife rehabilitator Amber opened up the door connecting the two yards after today’s release – two of the bears in yard #1 quickly moved to yard #2 to inspect this new environment. Amber shut the connecting door – the three bears in yard #2 will tentatively be released on Friday, January 31.

At this point, the staff plan on holding back #13-2606 to potentially be a future companion for injured bear #14-0018.

Comparison Photos:

April 30, 2013

All six Black Bear cubs are doing well at the Wildlife Center and are currently housed together in Bear Pen 1. They have access to the entire den and pen area of the Bear Pen and have several logs and trees for climbing practice.   As of April 30 … the bears will be on Critter Cam!

Each of the cubs has been transitioned from bottle-feeding to bowl-feeding; this means they are now readily lapping their specialized formula out of a bowl. Because the cubs are different weights and sizes, each formula amount is calculated for each individual bear, and the feedings are carefully monitored by the staff. The larger cubs are offered formula twice a day [cubs #13-0469 and #13-0470]; the smallest cubs are offered formula three times a day [four cubs]. At each feeding session, two students (or staff) enter the enclosure. Two cubs are fed at a time; the others are temporarily enclosed in large airline crates in the main area of the bear pen. Once everyone is fed, the cubs are allowed access to the entire Bear Pen 1 enclosure again. The staff leave a “mush bowl” for the bears each evening, to see if the cubs will eat more solid food overnight. So far, the cubs have not been interested.

Caring for nursing bear cubs long-term is a new challenge for the Wildlife Center rehabilitation team. Fortunately, the rehabilitation staff have been getting valuable advice from several other bear experts in the field. John Beecham of International Fund for Animal Welfare, Lisa Stewart of Black Bear Solar Institute, and Tracy Leaver of Woodlands Wildlife Refuge have all provided an overview of their black bear rehabilitation program – each facility has had remarkable success with the raising and release of the species.

Critter Cam viewers can expect to see the scheduled feedings around 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. Eastern – roughly. The staff and students will be visible on camera as they carefully monitor the bear cubs – and viewers may even see some interaction between caregivers and cubs. Because bear cubs are closely bonded with their sow in the wild, the young cubs are allowed a small amount of interaction with caregivers during feeding. While the Center staff and students do not talk to or cuddle with the cubs, the cubs may climb on the caregivers for a short period of time.

According to John Beecham, “Allowing cubs raised in captivity to socialize with other cubs may be the single most important factor in reducing the degree of their habituation. When human contact with the cubs is severely restricted after weaning, cubs will show less interest in interactions with their caretakers.” Lisa Stewart advises, “At this time of year, you will notice that the cubs still accept human interaction (they enjoy being held while taking their bottles), and there is not much risk at this point (up to 5 months of age) of causing habituation as long as the interaction with humans is short during the feeding period and the comfort received after feeding is from their own kind.” 

One good thing about caring for six bear cubs is that there is no shortage of comfort from their own kind!

Once the cubs begin to eat their nightly mush bowl, additional soft foods will be introduced. The cubs are weighed on Wednesdays and Sundays, and the bear pen is cleaned on Saturdays.

April 24, 2013

All six Black Bear cubs at the Wildlife Center are doing well; they have been split into two groups of three. Black Bears #13-0425, 13-0389, and 13-0450 are one “three-pack” – all are bottle-fed three times a day. The rehab staff are also working on getting them to lap formula from a bowl – in hopes of reducing the number of bottle feedings again over the next week. Bear cub #13-0425 with the injured toe is doing well – the bandage fell off several days after Dr. Dana applied it, but the toe is in good alignment and does not need further care.

Once Bear Pen 1 has been thoroughly disinfected, the cubs will be moved into that enclosure. The cubs are currently housed together in an airline crate in Flight Pen 2.

April 16, 2013

Black Bear cub #13-0389 is has been eating well during the past few days, and has gained weight. The cub is now at 2.75 kgs, an increase from 2.48 kgs. Additional blood work taken on April 13 was within normal limits.   

The Wildlife Center had considered placing cub #13-0389 at Virginia Tech’s Black Bear program with a sow and three other cubs, that is no longer an option – another orphaned cub was introduced to the Virginia Tech bear family over the course of the weekend. Another bear cub was admitted to the Wildlife Center on April 14 -- so the new plan is to raise both cubs together at the Center.

Share This Page