The Bears Need a Home … and The Center Needs Your Help!

The Wildlife Center of Virginia is currently caring for 16 Black Bear cubs. All of these cubs are being housed in the Center's Bear Pen – a windowless cinderblock building designed to provide secure ‘hospital rooms’ for injured adult bears.

While the Center’s current “bear building” provides safe and appropriate housing for adult bears, injured bears, or cubs needing close confinement for short periods, healthy cubs and yearlings being reared for release need much larger, more open space that gives them a full exposure to the sights, sounds, smells, and weather they’ll encounter in the wild.

The Center has begun the first phase of construction on a two-part complex of new enclosures that will dramatically enhance the Center’s housing and treatment options for black bear patients – especially cubs and yearlings.

Phase I of this complex is a new Large Mammal Isolation enclosure.  This isolation building will be 40’ x 16’, with a 16’ square pen at each end of the structure.  The middle section will be divided in two parts:   an 8’ x 8’ antechamber (acting as a double door system) and an 4’ x 8’ connector between the two bear enclosures.  The connecting chamber will have roller doors and will be used to shift bears back and forth and to consolidate bears to be anesthetized.  Each pen will be 8’ tall. The Large Mammal Isolation facility will be equipped with cameras and will be a part of the Center’s “Critter Cam” network.


This facility will meet the Center’s need for specialized, open-air isolation and quarantine facilities for new bears being admitted, or for current patients that need to be separated from the main bear population.  Construction on Phase I began on Monday, May 20. This building will be completed by mid-June and will allow the Center to move all of the cubs currently receiving care outdoors.

Phase II of the project is the main part of the black bear facilities -- a two-acre complex that will provide long-term, outdoor enclosures for healthy young bears. This complex will include three large “yards” of about 1/2 acre each, all inside a 15-foot, double-fenced secure buffer. A 40’ entrance [or transition] area will give staff access into secure triple-door systems that enter into a segregation area of each ½ acre enclosure. The perimeter fence will be at least eight feet tall, with 45-degree extensions containing two strands of barbless wire and one hotwire. This system will keep forest visitors out of the bear enclosure. The inner enclosure fences will be nine to 10 feet tall and will have suspended four-foot plastic panels on the inner walls of the fence to prevent climbing.

Each yard will be an area of natural forest habitat – with trees, stumps, bushes, brush, and other native plants. These will be the “classrooms” in which our cubs and yearling black bears can interact with other bears and practice the skills they’ll need in the wild. When constructed, major trees and land contours will be taken into account. While the plans pictured here show a large facility with straight-line fences, the end result will likely be curved walls that meander slightly through the forest.

Each enclosure will contain a concrete pool [approximately six by 10 feet] and an automatic waterer. Dens will also be provided using four-foot corrugated pipe. All large trees located near the enclosure walls will be wrapped with slippery protective metal to ensure that the cubs cannot climb them and escape.

Two towers will be constructed with the bear facility, between the three bear yards. The towers will be three levels: a storage area at the lowest level, a station for food dispersal at the middle level, and an observation deck and camera housing at the top level.

Each bear yard will house about 10-12 bear cubs. Depending on the Center’s annual case load, this means that one or two enclosure may not be in use, which will allow previously used yards to lay fallow for a season to regenerate growth.

Unlike the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, which is being constructed inside the Center’s current animal holding area, the main black bear complex will be built on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The Center has received a special-use permit for Phase II.


The fundraising goal for this project -- Phase I and Phase II -- is $440,000, which includes direct construction costs projected to be $400,000, and an additional $40,000 for the installation of high-definition video cameras and other “furnishings”  needed to make the facilities fully operational.    Commitments of $300,000 for this project have already been made.  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has committed $200,000 toward direct construction costs.  An additional $100,000 was donated by a loyal WCV supporter who wishes to remain anonymous.  

The final challenge to make this dream a reality is to raise the remaining $140,000.

If you would like to donate toward these new bear enclosures, please use the blue "donate now" PayPal button on the left-hand side of this page. You do not need to have a PayPal account to use this feature. Please use the special instructions field to indicate that your gift is for the Bear Project

Checks may also be mailed to:

Wildlife Center of Virginia
P.O. Box 1557
Waynesboro, VA 22980

Thank you for your support!

July 2013 update:

As of July 31, 2013, we met our fundraising goal for the construction of the two new bear facilities. Additional funds will be used to help us with any unexpected cost overruns and to acquire other items for "bear care" [e.g., an ATV for transporting materials to the new enclosures, additional features and "furnishings" within the large bear enclosure, etc.]

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has contributed unprecedented support on this project – their contribution of $200,000 will fund nearly half of our new bear facilities. For those who would like to thank DGIF, please send a card to this address:

Bob Duncan, Director
VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23230

Thanks again for your support. There is little we cannot accomplish when we work together!

Click here for photo updates on Phase I -- the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure.

Click here for photo updates on Phase II -- the large Black Bear cub rearing facility.