On August 16, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries picked up a Black Bear cub wearing a dog collar in Floyd County, Virginia. The bear was extremely tame and readily approached people. Based on the bear's behavior, Black Bear Project Leader Jaime Sajecki suspects this cub was kept as an illegal pet for at least several months.
The bear was transported to the Wildlife Center and examined by the Center's veterinary staff. The male bear is healthy, but his behavior is very abnormal and concerning. Dr. Ernesto has been carefully observing the cub via an internal camera during the past few weeks to objectively record how the bear has been spending his time -- eating, playing, displaying stereotypic behavior (pacing, rocking, and self-mutilation including nursing on himself). First, the bear's behavior was recorded when the cub was housed alone; then the behaviors were recorded after the bear was introduced to four bear cubs in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. At this point, the bear's behavior is still very abnormal, and the cub hasn't been seen interacting normally with any other cubs.
On Thursday, September 15, the bear cub will be moved to the Center's Black Bear Complex, where he'll have more room to explore, and more cubs to interact with. The staff will continue to monitor the bear's behavior this fall, though at this point, strongly suspect that the bear will be unable to be released. Based on the bear's current behavior and attitude, placement at an educational facility may not be an option. Sadly, because someone selfishly kept this bear as a pet, this bear will likely never be a happy, healthy wild bear.
If anyone has any information about this bear or any other illegally held/captive wildlife, please call the VDGIF Crimeline at 1-800-237-5712 or WildCrime@dgif.virginia.gov.