Black Bear cubs of 2019

Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Separated from mothers
Patient Status: 
Current Patient

In late April 2019, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year's bear cubs from several locations throughout Virginia. These bears were likely born between early January to mid-February of 2019. In most cases, the cubs were separated from their mothers.

The young bears will be cared for by the Wildlife Center until next spring, at the time when they would begin naturally dispersing from their mothers. The 2019 cubs will be released in the spring of 2020.

To limit human interaction, only a few staff care for the bear cubs. Depending on their age and condition when they arrive, cubs may live in a Zinger crate, in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, or in the Center’s Black Bear Complex. The Center has some set weight guidelines that help determine when cubs are ready to move to their next stage of housing; usually cubs move to the Large Mammal enclosure when they are more than 3.0 kg [typically in May] and are large enough to move to the Black Bear Complex when they are more than 10 kg [typically in July]. Cubs also must be weaned from formula before they are moved to the Black Bear Complex, where they have a half-acre of forest to explore.

When introduced to other bears, each cub has a temporary colored tag placed in its ear. These tags will be removed prior to release and will be replaced with permanent green ear tags from the Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries. The temporary colored tags allow the Center staff to monitor and identify the cubs. The green "release" tags identify them as rehabilitated bear cubs.

The 2019 bear cubs include:

Black Bear cub #19-0492 [White Tag], female
Black Bear cub #19-0546 [No Tag], female
Black Bear cub #19-1176 [Orange Tag], male

Frequently Asked Questions: Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation

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June 18, 2019

On the afternoon of June 17, Dr. Karra anesthetized Black Bear cub #19-1176 [Orange Tag] for radiographs and an ultrasound to see if any abdominal masses or obstruction could be seen. The small bear cub was extremely feisty before anesthesia – even though the cub has not been eating the past few days, he is not acting sick.


Drs. Karra and Peach were not able to see anything of note on the ultrasound or additional radiographs. The bear’s gastrointestinal tract was empty, and no masses were seen. The veterinarians are unsure of what is causing the bear’s lack of appetite at this point. A student went to a local animal hospital and picked up anti-nausea medication and an appetite stimulant; Dr. Karra gave the medications and fluids and then placed the cub back in a Zinger crate. The crate was moved back to the right side of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, and the rehabilitation staff offered the bear a meal of canned A/D, a highly digestible, soft food.

On the morning of June 18, wildlife rehabilitation intern Kylee checked on Orange Tag and found that he had eaten the A/D food overnight. She prepared another meal for him, along with some baby food. The team will carefully monitor him to see if he continues to eat.

June 17, 2019

Rehabilitators Shannon and Kylee assessed Black Bear cub Orange Tag this morning and found that, once again, he did not eat last night’s food. He did gain a small amount of weight but generally was not interested in today’s food either, which is highly unusual.

Drs. Karra and Peach reviewed yesterday’s radiographs again; the bear’s abdomen appears abnormal, though it’s difficult to assess. While the bear does not appear to have an obstruction, there is a chance there is a mass in the bear’s abdomen, but it’s difficult to appreciate. Dr. Karra decided to bring the cub down into the Center’s hospital for an ultrasound this afternoon; depending on what she finds, she may take the bear into exploratory surgery immediately after the ultrasound.

June 17, 2019

The trio of Black Bear cubs have been entertaining a variety of Critter Cam viewers. They appear to enjoy sleeping in their hammock but often wake up for wild play sessions throughout the day. Orange Tag has been playing and sleeping with his new sisters, though the two larger females are typically first to arrive at the mush bowls once they are delivered. The staff have been carefully monitoring the cubs’ food intake.

Orange Tag weighed in at 3.25 kg on Thursday, June 13 – the same weight he was on Monday, June 10 when he first moved in with the two other cubs. He’s maintaining his weight, though the rehabilitation staff would like to see the cub's weight increase, even with the dramatic increase in his activity level.

After two more days of observation, the rehabilitation staff decided to move Orange Tag to the connecting chute of the Large Mammal enclosure, so that he could fully eat his twice-daily mush bowls. On June 16, the rehabilitation team noted that Orange Tag wasn’t eating much, so Dr. Karra performed an examination, including blood work. The cub was given fluids and returned to a zinger crate in the right side of the Large Mammal enclosure.

Some blood work values were mildly elevated, likely due to the bear’s young age and poor appetite. The staff will monitor the cub carefully in the next few days.

June 10, 2019

Black Bear cub Orange Tag has been recovering from his forehead laceration; wildlife rehabilitator Shannon noted that the wound looked a little open over the weekend, though it appears as though it was a small area and no additional sutures were needed. Dr. Karra carefully applied a topical ointment to prevent flystrike.

Fortunately, as of this morning, Orange Tag weighs more than 3.0 kg – and can be moved into the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure with the two female bears! The rehab staff will make the introductions at the afternoon/evening feeding. While the female bears are suited to eat just once a day, Orange Tag needs twice a day feedings until he reaches 5.0 kg, therefore everyone will likely share in the twice-a-day feedings. 

June 7, 2019

The two Black Bear Cub sisters [No Tag and White Tag] are currently being fed just once a day; each cub gets a mush bowl, plus a shared “juvenile” bear meal that weighs six pounds! The juvenile meal contains fruits, veggies, seeds, greens, and dog food. The rehabilitation team reports that the two sisters are doing well and remain quite wild and feisty. The cubs are still being treated with a topical antifungal spray, though this treatment is increasingly difficult.

On Tuesday afternoon, rehabilitator Kelsey noted that Orange Tag – the small male that is currently in a Zinger crate – had a laceration on his forehead. Kelsey suspects that the cub may have cut his head on the inside latch of the Zinger crate since this tiny cub often lunges and bluffs at the door at the rehabilitators during feeding time. Dr. Peach was able to anesthetize the cub and suture the wound; it appears to be healing well. As of June 6, the cub weighed 2.79 kg; he's currently being fed twice a day. Hopefully, by next week, the small male will be able to join the other two cubs in the main area of the Large Mammal enclosure.