Black Bear cubs of 2019

Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Separated from mothers
Prognosis: 
Good
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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Updates

August 29, 2019

On August 28, the rehabilitation team successfully moved the 2019 Black Bear cubs to the Bear Complex! Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey and wildlife rehab intern Kylee were unable to safely trap the cubs in a zinger crate, choosing instead to dart and anesthetize both of the bears within the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. After Dr. Ernesto conducted a visual examination both of the cubs spent the night in a smaller transition area within the complex, giving them plenty of time to acclimate to their new environment.

The following morning, wildlife rehabilitator Shannon opened the transition area, and each of the bears immediately began to explore! Within a few minutes, White Tag headed for a tree and began to climb, but seemed to change her mind and joined No Tag on the ground instead. Before leaving, Shannon scattered a small amount of produce on the ground within the complex, encouraging the cubs to forage and move throughout the new space. Now that these bears have full access to a half-acre of trees, artificial dens, and a swimming pool, they’re certain to be busy in the coming days!  

No Tag looking into yard #1 from the transition area:

  

No Tag and White Tag climbing their first trees:

  

August 27, 2019

After months of repairs and work on the Bear Complex, the two-acre facility is once again ready to house bears!  Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey and rehabilitation intern Kylee will do a final walk-through and fence test on the morning of August 28. If all checks out, the two cubs will be moved to yard #1 later that day. The rehabilitation staff will try to trap the two cups in a zinger crate [without sedation] for moving. Watch for them when Critter Cam changes to the bear yard!

In the meantime, the cubs have been enjoying a variety of food and enrichment – including live fish!

August 9, 2019

Repairs and preparation of the Black Bear Complex continue, though are not yet complete! The plumbing issues have been fixed, though the construction company will be back one more time to work on a sliding door gate to one of the bear yards, which is difficult to open due to erosion issues. An amazing crew of volunteers has been working on trimming all the tree limbs around the fences; this work is nearly complete. Once trees are fully cleared around the fences, an electrician will return to the Center and test the electric fence. Some trees will be wrapped in a heavy plastic sheet to prevent climbing.

Once all these repairs are made, the complex will be ready! At this point, the staff are hoping this will be done in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, the cubs are doing well in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure.

July 18, 2019

Despite the high temperatures, the two Black Bear cubs have been quite active in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure lately! Critter Cam viewers have been able to capture the cubs using the ceiling of the enclosure like a set of monkey bars.

Work continues on the Black Bear Complex; contractors are scheduled to finish fixing all plumbing issues on Monday, July 22. Center rehabilitators and students have been working on trimming a number of lower limbs in the complex; a tree service will be at the Center within the next week to trim the higher branches that may prove to be future escape routes for cubs and yearlings. The Center also received a new shipment of thick black plastic to strategically wrap around several trees; this material helps prevent climbing on a number of trees close to the edge of each yard.

Staff hope to move the cubs to the Complex toward the end of the month; staff would like to test the water system for several days after it’s fixed to make sure no additional plumbing problems are noted.

July 1, 2019

The two Black Bear cubs are doing well in the Center’s Large Mammal enclosure; last week, the wildlife rehabilitation staff opened up the connecting chute between both sides of the enclosure, to allow the cubs to have access to both sides.

Construction crews have been working on Black Bear Complex repairs during the past month; they have been able to fix a broken pipe and several valves in the water system throughout the two-acre complex. There are still some additional plumbing issues to adjust in the next two weeks.

A crew also came to work on building some water run-off controls; the entire complex is built on a sizeable hill, so the Center has been experiencing some erosion issues during the past couple of years, which seems to be starting in the bear complex. Last week, the Center had a heavy rain, which was helpful in flagging areas where additional erosion mitigation is needed.

Additionally, a tree-trimming crew will be here within the next two weeks to trim limbs that have grown close to all of the interior and perimeter fencing in the complex. The plan is for all repairs to be done by July 23, so the cubs can move to the yard at that time, as long as they are more than 10 kg in weight.

June 24, 2019

Orange Tag continues to be a picky eater; the rehabilitation staff have continued to offer a wide variety of foods, and it appears that the cub typically eats novel food items, then loses interest the next time it is offered. 

On Saturday, Dr. Karra administered additional anti-nausea medication and an appetite stimulant. The bear has the full run of the right side of the Large Mammal enclosure but is still separate from the other two cubs so that he has full access to his food and so the rehabilitation staff can closely monitor all food intake.

The veterinary staff are hoping this bout of gastritis is self-limiting and will clear given time and reduced stress (limited handling). It's a tricky situation to treat; ideally, the staff would give the bear subcutaneous fluids and an oral dose of medication on days when he doesn't eat, but excessive handling and restraint may stress the cub and cause him to not want to eat. If the cub becomes quieter this week and appears less bright and alert, the veterinarians will perform an endoscopy procedure to check the bear’s upper GI tract for ulcers.

June 20, 2019

Orange Tag ate about 60% of his meal overnight; rather than eating the A/D again, he mostly ate baby food and canned dog food. The cub only lost 200 grams, and while the rehabilitation staff would prefer that the cub gain, 200 grams is a small loss. The rehabilitation team offered a variety of foods once again, this time adding baby food on top of the A/D diet. 

If the cub's appetite decreases again, the staff will order more anti-nausea medications, along with an appetite stimulant. 

June 19, 2019

Wildlife rehabilitation intern Kylee reported that Orange Tag ate his second meal of A/D during the day on June 18. For the evening feeding, she offered more A/D, plus a mush bowl. On the morning of June 19, wildlife rehabilitator Shannon found that the cub had eaten about half of the A/D, but showed no interest in the mush bowl. The cub is feisty and bluff charging the rehabilitation staff as normal.

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.