Black Bear cubs of 2020

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

In early 2020, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year's bear cubs from several locations throughout Virginia. This year, the Center admitted an unusually high number of infant cubs; between late January and mid-February, seven Black Bear cubs were admitted. These infants ranged from two- to four-weeks-old at admission.

Thanks to the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, three of the seven cubs were able to be fostered onto wild bear mothers. Each of the three cubs [#20-0064, #20-0084, and #20-0105] were matched and placed with separate bear families in the wild. Due to the number of cubs admitted this year, and a very warm, early spring, the biologists were unable to find appropriate matches for the remaining four. 

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 2020 cubs will be released in the spring of 2021. 

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, though this year's cohort is moving much earlier!] 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 2020 bear cubs include:

#20-0106 (female): No Tag
#20-0107 (male): Yellow Tag
#20-0108 (female): White Tag
#20-0109 (male): Orange Tag

Frequently Asked Questions: Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation

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Updates

March 25, 2020

The Black Bear cubs are doing well and gaining weight: 

#20-0106 (female) No Tag: 2.46 kg 
#20-0107 (male) Yellow Tag: 5.05 kg
#20-0108 (female) White Tag: 3.85 kg 
#20-0109 (male) Orange Tag: 4.30 kg 

Soon, Critter Cam watchers can see the bears for themselves! After Bobcat #19-2408 was picked up for release on Wednesday, the rehabilitation staff began carefully cleaning the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure to get it ready for the four bear cubs. The current plan is to move the four cubs into the right side of the Large Mammal enclosure; the three larger cubs will have full access to that space. Cub #20-0106, who is younger and smaller than the triplet cubs, will need to remain in a Zinger crate until she grows more. Stay tuned to see them on Critter Cam #3!

March 19, 2020

The four Black Bear cubs at the Wildlife Center are doing well and growing quickly! The cubs are currently being bottle-fed and are also starting to eat food out of a bowl; they also have supervised play sessions in their sheltered outdoor space. Before the cubs were moved to this area, the rehabilitation staff took a few video clips, which we compiled here: 

 

 

Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey notes that the three older cubs are already much more coordinated in their movements! The younger cub will no doubt catch up soon. 

 

 

DGIF biologists report that they have continued den checks, but no suitable matches have been found. Given the very warm temperatures, it's  likely that it's too late to find wild foster mothers for these four. The rehabilitation staff are prepared to care for the cubs for the long-haul -- until spring 2021. 

The three older cubs are now large enough to receive ear tags, which are used for identification purposes while they are cared for at the Center. This week, the rehabilitation and veterinary staff are applying ear tags: 

#20-0107 (male): Yellow Tag

#20-0109 (male): Orange Tag

#20-0108 (female): White Tag

Wildlife rehabilitator Shannon shared the inside scoop on the goodwill and intent behind these color selections: 

"Since all of these bear cubs came in very young, and therefore are more at risk for habituation, we wanted to give them certain tag colors that past bears patients had -- bear cubs who excelled in showing appropriate behaviors. In the past few years, bears with a yellow ear tag have been some of the largest bears in the group, and have proven to be more of the strong but silent types. They’re relatively unassuming but great playmates and protectors of their siblings. #20-0107 is already the largest bear, and is not as mischievous as his brother, Orange Tag. 

"Orange Tag was chosen when we were hoping that all of these bears would be fostered onto a wild sow, and we needed to be able to designate between the two males. Orange nail polish is bright and easily identifiable, and so we chose the orange ear tag since he was already marked with orange polish. Past bears with orange tags have been quite playful and mischievous at times, and this bear is definitely living up to that reputation! 

"Lastly, we chose white tag because the past couple of white tag bears have been fierce around human caretakers, but played well with their bear siblings. Overall, we knew that they had a great chance of success post-release. Our little 2020 White Tag might be small, but her personality is not!"

March 9, 2020

The four Black Bear cubs are doing well at the Wildlife Center; the rehabilitation staff have been bottle-feeding the cubs a specialized bear cub formula three times a day, and each cub is gaining weight. As of March 9:

#20-0106: (female): 1.4 kg

#20-0107: (male): 2.74 kg

#20-0108: (female): 2.24 kg

#20-0109: ("orange" male): 2.50 kg 

Last week, the staff received a report from the DGIF Black Bear biologist who said den checks are still underway, but no suitable matches have been found for these four cubs. With warm temperatures arriving this week, wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey began setting up an outdoor space for the cubs, so they can hear and smell outdoor sounds and scents. The cubs will live in Zinger crates together in the “metals complex”, which has been cleared out to be a future Black Bear cub housing and playground area. The staff will bring the cubs in at night if temperatures get too cold, though hope to mostly keep the cubs outdoors.

 

 

February 27, 2020

VDGIF biologists reported back on February 26 with news of a partially successful fostering attempt!

The two biologists quietly approached an active den site where a sow was known to have cubs of her own, and placed Black Bear cub #20-0105 outside of the den. Shortly after, the sow heard the cub’s cries and readily picked the young male up and placed him with her other cubs inside the den. To avoid disturbing the sow with any further activity, the biologists left the den site, but plan on returning to the to the area in a few weeks to assess the situation. The staff are delighted with this excellent news!

Unfortunately, no suitable den sites for the remaining four cubs were found. The biologists report that the other dens that were checked were deemed inappropriate because the sows either had no cubs at the time, or had too many cubs. 

The remaining four cubs were transferred back to the Wildlife Center on the evening of February 26. VGDIF biologists plan to assess several other dens between February 27 and 29; one den in particular is known to have a radio-collared sow the biologists plan to immobilize to perform a health check and change her collar. The sow is predicted to have cubs this year, and the biologists are hoping she will be a match. If dens are found that are deemed acceptable, they will decide how many and which cubs to take on either Friday, February 28 or Monday, March 2.

As Wildlife Center rehabilitator Kelsey states, “We are all keeping our fingers crossed that one of these dens and sows will be an acceptable match for at least one of the cubs – fostering one is better than fostering none!”

We hope to hear more news in the coming days. 

 

Click the video below to see these cubs being fed and cared for by rehabilitators Kelsey and Shannon.

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2020

On the morning of February 21, Center staff received word that biologists with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries found appropriate potential foster mothers for the five Black Bear cubs currently in care. A biologist picked up all five cubs; Center staff are waiting for more details and (hopefully) successful outcomes.