On January 22, an infant Black Bear cub was found in Craig County by power line workers; the cub was on top of a brush pile and was nearly frozen. The workers thought the cub was dead at first, but after they warmed the infant bear, she started crying.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries took the cub and immediately began looking for potential foster mother bears. Through their radio-collaring project, DGIF biologists are able to locate wild female bears who have given birth in their winter dens. Female Black Bears with newly born cubs will often accept orphaned cubs and raise them as their own. Biologists are always careful to assess each situation to ensure cubs are the same size and age, and that they aren't overburdening a mother bear with more cubs than she can successfully raise.
Before the cub was admitted to the Center on January 28, DGIF biologists visited two radio-collared female dens to attempt fostering. Unfortunately, those females did not have cubs at the time so the orphaned cub could not be placed with these females. DGIF will continue to check on other radio-collared females in the next week.
Dr. Ernesto, the Center's hospital director, found that the small female cub was bright and alert and in good body condition. There were no significant findings on the physical examination and radiographs, except mild dehydration and minor wheezing sounds in the bear's right lung, likely due to a small amount of aspirated formula. The bear was given fluids and was set up in one of the Center's incubators.
The rehabilitation staff began bottle-feeding the cub later that same afternoon; they will manage a 'round-the-clock feeding schedule during the time that the cub spends at the Center. The cub weighs 566 grams and is the smallest cub that has been admitted in recent years.
This foster technique has worked many times in recent years; often, DGIF can foster a cub within a matter of days if a suitable match can be found. Sometimes, orphaned cubs are admitted to the Center for care when additional time is needed to find a suitable foster mother. In past years, the Center has helped temporarily care for several cubs that were eventually fostered, including cubs in 2015 and 2017.
The rehabilitation staff are getting to know this tiny bear and her feeding preferences; by the noon feeding on January 29, wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey reported that the cub was "eating like a champ" and had already gained 12 grams.