Now that the total number of Black Bear cubs is up to five, and the smallest cubs of the group weighed in at about 5 kg this past week, the rehabilitation staff decided to open both sides of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure and allow the cubs to have more space to explore and climb. The cubs are currently ranging in size from 5.35 kg (#21-1097) to 8.10 kg (#21-0705).
The staff have been carefully assessing Black Bear cub #21-0545 during the past two weeks; unfortunately, that cub has been showing an increased amount of pacing during the day. While it's not uncommon to see this activity intermittently, particularly from older cubs that have spent more time in the wild before coming into captivity, the amount of pacing has been concerning to the staff. Pacing can be due to a number of issues: the cub may be distressed about the location/space (too open, not open enough), being housed with other bears (or not), or the amount of stimulation (too much going on with the other cubs, or not enough enrichment provided to occupy the bear). Those variables make it difficult to solve this issue simply, though the staff have been increasing enrichment, allowing more space (through opening both sides of the LMI), and have also tried medicating the bear to sedate her. On June 1, the staff decided to test one more variable and move the cub to the Center's Bear Pens, a much quieter space with less stimulation. Newest cub #21-1427 was also moved with the bear to provide company, leaving three cubs in the Large Mammal enclosure.
Sadly, on June 2, the staff reported that there was no change in the young bear's behavior. The cub has wounds on her paws; the veterinary team sedated the bear on the afternoon of June 2 to treat the wounds and also carefully do a full medical evaluation. The physical examination was unremarkable; blood was drawn and will be analyzed in the Center's laboratory.
The staff ordered a different type of medication to see if the cub's stress level can be decreased until she can be moved to the Black Bear Complex, but much work needs to be completed there as a part of the Great Rebuild campaign, so this may not offer a short-term solution. The staff are distressed by this turn of events; this pacing, stressed behavior seems to be a sudden change, since the bear exhibited normal cub behavior when she was housed indoors at a younger age. The cub could be a particularly stressed individual, or could also have an actual abnormality in her brain.
The other cubs are eating well and growing. Work will soon begin on the Black Bear Complex in preparation for moving the cubs later this summer.