At the end of March 2017, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year's bear cubs from locations throughout Virginia. These bears were likely born between early January to mid-February of 2017. In most cases, the cubs were separated from their mothers.
While the Wildlife Center and biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries were able to foster a cub onto a wild denning sow earlier this year [link], the end of March proved to be too late in the season to successfully find a foster mom for the first cub. Sows become more active in the spring weather and start leaving their winter dens with their cubs in early April. The second, third, and fourth cub were admitted to the Wildlife Center within the weeks following the first cub's admission.
Bear cubs at the Wildlife Center are rehabilitated for a year and are released in the following spring, at the time when they would begin naturally dispersing from their mothers. The 2017 cubs will be released in the spring of 2018.
To limit human interaction, only a few staff care for the bear cubs. Cubs admitted in the early spring typically need supplemental heat; they live in one of the Center's patient rooms and are bottle- or bowl-fed a special bear formula multiple times a day. When they are old enough to move outside, they continue to live in a contained zinger crate, with access to a larger play space during feeding sessions. After that, the cubs are housed in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. Once the bear cubs are weaned from formula, they are moved to the Center’s 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 via Critter Cam. The green "release" tags identify them as rehabilitated bears.
The 2017 bear cubs include:
Black Bear cub #17-0352, female
Black Bear cub #17-0374, [Red Tag], male
Black Bear cub #17-0411 [Green Tag], male
Black Bear cub #17-0444 [White Tag], female
Black Bear cub #17-0606 [Orange Tag], female