Black Bear cubs of 2023

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

In April 2023, 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 spring 2024, at the time when they would begin naturally dispersing from their mothers. 

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 indoors, 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 into 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.

Before cubs ultimately move to the Black Bear Complex, they are ear-tagged with a temporary colored tag so that the Center staff can monitor and identify the cubs from a distance.  Staff prefer to ear tag cubs when they are around 5.0 kgs, which means smaller cubs admitted earlier in the spring typically don't receive their tag until they are anesthetized for the move to the Bear Complex in the mid-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 larger cubs are admitted in late spring/early summer, they may be ear-tagged at admission before joining the other bear cubs. 

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 2023 bear cubs include:

Black Bear cub #23-0529, female [one ear]
Black Bear cub #23-0681, female  [two ears] 
Black Bear cub #23-0829, female

Frequently Asked Questions: Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation

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May 17, 2023

The three Black Bear cubs of 2023 are doing well and have been growing quickly. Cub #23-0529 [one ear] weighed in at 4.3 kg on May 15, and is still receiving bottles, mush bowls, and juvenile bear meals twice per day. Rehabilitation Team Lead Mac notes that the cub is highly energetic and is adjusting well to living side-by-side with Black Bear cubs #23-0681 and #23-0829 within the LMI 1 enclosure.  

On Thursday, May 11, veterinary staff determined that Black Bear cub #23-0681’s umbilicus wound had thoroughly healed, her bandages were removed, and she was cleared to transition into the full LMI 1 enclosure that same day. During the past week, staff have observed the cubs playing and wrestling with each other, sleeping together, and exploring the enclosure throughout the day. Black Bear cub #23-0681 is provided bottles, mush bowls, and juvenile bear meals twice per day, and now weighs 3.6 kg. Some of her favorite foods appear to be grapes and hard-boiled eggs.

Black Bear cub #23-0829 is also recovering well. Repeat radiographs and a physical examination with the veterinary staff on May 11 showed that her left hind leg is very stable and that the fractured bone is appropriately callused. That same evening, she was transitioned out of the Zinger crate and into LMI 1. Rehabilitation staff note that she appears to be much quieter compared to the other two cubs, but is a great eater – on May 15 she weighed 6.3 kg.

These three cubs are now featured on Cub Cam! Viewers can watch a live-streaming video feed of them anytime on Critter Cam 2.

May 10, 2023

The Black Bear cubs of 2023 have been doing well during the past week. Black Bear #23-0529 [one ear] continues to be one of the more active cubs, and is very vocal throughout the day. She is eating well and gaining weight -- on May 8, she weighed in at 3.65 kg. Rehabilitation staff have transitioned to bottle feeding her twice per day while still offering mush bowls and juvenile bear meals twice per day. On May 3, she was transitioned into the full LMI 1 enclosure.


Black Bear cub #23-0681’s umbilicus wound has been healing excellently during the past week, and is nearly closed. A new abscess was observed on her hip, but the veterinary staff note it appears healthy and is not concerning at this time. Most recently, the cub weighed in at 3.01 kg, more than double what she weighed upon intake. Rehabilitation staff are now offering her bottles, mush bowls, and juvenile bear meals two times per day. For now, the cub will remain separated in a large Zinger crate placed inside LMI 1 – where she can see and interact with Black Bear cub #23-0529 -- until her wound is completely healed.

The most-recently admitted cub, Black Bear cub #23-0829, is also doing well. She is up to 5.2 kg, and is offered mush bowls once per day in addition to juvenile bear meals twice per day. During daily feedings and care sessions, rehabilitation staff report she is very eager to run and climb within the LMI enclosure chute, and has been using and placing more weight on her left hind leg each day. With these observations in mind, Dr. Karra performed an in-depth physical exam during the past week, and determined that surgical intervention is not needed – for now, staff plan to let the fractured bone heal on its own. Depending on the results of repeat radiographs scheduled for May 11, she may be able to join Black Bear cub #23-0529 freely in LMI 1 following several more days of cage rest.

May 3, 2023

Black Bear cub #23-0529 [one ear] is doing well, and has been quite active in LMI during the past week. Rehabilitation Team Lead Mac reports that the cub is extremely interested in interacting with Black Bear cub #23-0681 [two ears], and has continued to show pacing behaviors in her enclosure outside of supervised playtime. She’s eating well and gaining weight – she regularly consumes 100% of the bottles that are offered three times per day, and usually eats solid foods overnight. In addition to mush bowls, staff are now offering meals designed for juvenile bears (soaked bear chow or dog food, fruits, and vegetables) twice per day. On May 1, she weighed in at 3 kg. Wrestling with sheets and towels seems to be particularly entertaining for her. To encourage active play and exercise, the rehab team safely secure a few to the LMI chute for her to play with during daily care.

Black Bear cub #23-0681’s [two ears] condition has continued to improve during the past week. Sutures applied to the skin over her umbilicus were unsuccessful in keeping the wound closed, but the area has remained clean and uninfected. Rather than anesthetizing the cub to apply new sutures, the area is cleaned and bandaged with new dressings each day by rehabilitation staff during morning bottle feedings. While the wound heals, oral pain medications and antibiotics are administered with her meals. The cub has increased significantly in weight during the past week – on May 1, she weighed 2.34 kg.  Bottles are offered to the cub three times per day, and mush bowls are offered twice per day. Until her bandages can be removed, the limited interactions with cub #23-0529 will be closely monitored by the rehab team.

April 27, 2023

The first cub of 2023, #23-0529,  has continued to do well during the past week. In addition to daily bottle feeding, the one-eared cub is now eating from mush bowls that the rehab team leaves for her, and she has increased in weight to 2.86kg. The rehab team notes that the cub has been intermittently pacing in her enclosure, likely because she does not have another cub to interact with. To provide socialization until cub #23-0681 can join her in LMI, the rehab team takes time to orchestrate "supervised" playtime each day. Take a look!


Black Bear cub # 23-0681 [two ears] has been introduced to the one-eared cub for scheduled playtime, though has primarily been housed separately so that she can come inside on cold nights, due to her underweight body condition.  Additionally, on April 19, the rehabilitation team discovered swelling around the cub's umbilicus and noted that she had diarrhea and dull mentation. The swelling was suspected to be an abscess or hematoma and the cub was treated with a combination of antibiotics, fluids, anti-nausea medication, probiotics, and lactase enzymes. The swelling reduced significantly throughout the week, however, on April 23, the rehabilitators discovered drainage around the umbilicus.

On April 24, the vet team anesthetized the cub for a closer examination and found a ruptured abscess over the umbilicus. Fortunately, only the skin was affected; underlying subcutaneous tissue and the body wall were healthy and intact. Vet staff sutured the wound closed and plan to closely monitor the site.

The cause of the abscess is unknown, but the cub's overall condition has improved significantly. Just hours after her procedure, the rehab team reported that the cub was active, taking her bottle, and eating from her mush bowl. A recent weight check showed that her weight increased to 1.64 kg. The rehab team is currently limiting playtime with the one-eared cub to avoid any accidental damage to her wound, but hope to place them together soon.

April 17, 2023

The first Black Bear cub of 2023 has been doing very well during the past week. Rehabilitation staff report that she responds excellently to bottle feeding, and almost always finishes the entire bottle during each feeding session three times per day. While the cub hasn’t shown much interest in bowl-feeding at this point, staff will continue to offer “mush bowls” twice per day. Black Bear cub #23-0529’s body condition has improved during the past week, as well – her most recent weight was 2.66 kg.

On April 15, staff transitioned the cub to the connecting chute of the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation [LMI] enclosure and set up the small space [measuring 4' x 8'] with fresh straw, branches for climbing, and a hide with thick, warm blankets. During feeding sessions and daily checks when staff are present, the cub is allowed access to the enclosure’s vestibule or one of the currently-unused sides of LMI for exercise, enrichment, and play. For now, due to her small size, Black Bear cub #23-0529 will remain in the LMI chute under close observation.

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