In April 2021, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year's bear cubs from several locations throughout Virginia. 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 2021 cubs will be released in the spring of 2022.
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.
Historically, at admission, each cub has a temporary colored tag placed in its ear so that the Center staff can monitor and identify the cubs from a distance. This year, the staff will postpone ear-tagging cubs until the bears are older -- likely before they move into the Black Bear Complex this summer. For smaller cubs admitted during the spring months, the staff clip a small amount of fur on each bear and then paint the bare spot so that the bears still have a temporary identification system as the cub population grows.
Ultimately, most colored ear tags are removed prior to release and are replaced with permanent green ear tags from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which identify the bears as rehabilitated cubs.
The 2021 bear cubs include: