Black Bear #14-0126

March 1, 2014
August 4, 2014
Rescue Location
Madison County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On March 1, a yearling Black Bear was admitted to the Wildlife Center. The small bear had been spotted in Madison County for several days, and was hanging around someone’s back porch. A Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officer responded to a call about the bear and was able to easily catch the underweight yearling. The bear was transported to the Wildlife Center and was admitted as patient #14-0126.

Dr. Kristin Britton, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the bear when it arrived at the Center. The female yearling was bright and alert, but was thin and dehydrated. The bear had several large ticks, and Dr. Kristin noted some alopecia [hair loss] on the bear’s ears. Radiographs were taken; no broken bones were noted, although Dr. Kristin noted that the muscles in both hind limbs were atrophied. The bear weighed 6.92 kg.

After receiving fluids, the bear was placed in a sturdy enclosure in the Center’s holding room. Dr. Kristin prescribed a “slurry” of highly digestible, nutritional food to get the bear started on food again. So far, the bear has been eating well, though she has been quieter and more subdued than she was on arrival. The veterinary team will continue to monitor the bear and hope to wean the bear onto a more “normal” bear meal later this week.

At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release. Your donation will help support the Center’s life-saving work with this bear … and with thousands of wild animals in need.

Patient Updates

On the morning of August 4, DGIF Black Bear Project Leader Jaime Sajecki and biologist David Kocka arrived at the Center to collect the seven Black Bears for release.

The team quietly walked to the Large Mammal Isolation building and were able to enclose the two yearlings and a cub in Large Mammal Isolation enclosure #1, while the other four cubs were trapped in the connecting chute. Dr. Meghan darted one yearling; Dr. Helen darted the other. Once the two female yearlings were feeling the effects of the anesthesia, the veterinary staff removed the yearlings from the enclosure and anesthetized the two largest cubs in the connecting chute [14-0350 and 14-0253] using a pole syringe. The other cubs were captured by hand and were injected with an anesthetic drug.

All bears were examined, weighed, and ear-tagged; they also each had blood drawn for analysis. All bears were in great body condition.

Black Bear

Admission Weight

Current Weight


6.92 kg

36.3 kg


7.46 kg

28.8 kg


8.36 kg

26.8 kg


3.23 kg

15.5 kg


4.68 kg

20.7 kg


1.80 kg

12.3 kg


2.10 kg

14.5 kg

Both female yearlings were loaded into one side of the bear transport trap on the DGIF truck. Once safely loaded, the bears were injected with a reversal medication to wake them up. The cubs were safely loaded into the other side of the transport container.

Black Bear cubs of 2014 Release


Once at the release site, the cubs will be released first, so that they can leave the transport container; then the yearlings will be released. This will allow the cubs to see in which direction the yearlings choose to run.

Both the Wildlife Center team and DGIF biologists feel optimistic that the cubs will stay with the yearlings after release. Last week, on one of the final Bear Complex days, the staff and Critter Cam viewers happened to catch a special moment – yearling #14-0184 was allowing both of “her” cubs [14-0224 and 14-0394] to nurse. Critter Cam viewers saw this behavior again when the bears were moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure just prior to release.

With the arrival of the bear cubs of 2014, the Wildlife Center of Virginia staff and officials with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries decided to try to use a female bear yearling as a surrogate “big sister”. This technique was used by the Wildlife Center in 2012 and there have been several other instances at other bear rehabilitation facilities when cubs were fostered onto female yearlings. According to Jaime Sajecki, Virginia’s state bear biologist, after a period of introduction, some female yearlings will readily accept young cubs and will essentially teach them "how to be bears." Despite not being of breeding age, the maternal instincts of these female yearlings kick in after they are introduced to their young charges.

On the morning of April 16, Dr. Rich, veterinary technician Leigh-Ann, and veterinary students Marjo and Megan went to the bear complex to dart a female yearling from yard #2.
Leigh-Ann was able to borrow a life net from the Waynesboro fire department to catch the bear if needed – the staff, along with regular Critter Cam watchers, knew that the 2014 yearlings really like being high in the trees!

When the team arrived at the complex, one bear was about 45 feet up in a tree toward the front of yard #2. Dr. Rich decided to attempt to dart this bear, because the team would not need to enter the yard right away – he could safely dart the bear from the transition area. The first dart hit the tree under the bear and woke it up; the yearling decided to start climbing down the tree. The second dart missed the bear as well. The third dart successfully hit the bear. Fortunately for the capture team, the bear decided to climb down the tree, eliminating the need for the fire department’s life net. When the bear was about 10 feet off of the ground, the anesthesia began to take effect and she became quite wobbly; technician Leigh-Ann was able to safely catch the bear as it fell off of the tree trunk.

The yearling was identified by her ear tags as #14-0126. The team was not able to get an accurate weight due to scale error, but Dr. Rich noted that the small bear is healthy and in good body condition. The bear has recovered successfully in the Center’s Bear Pen. She will likely be introduced to her new young charges on April 17.

We caught Black Bear #14-0126 attempting to get comfortable while napping in a tree yesterday … and we managed to get a video clip of it!

On March 21, the Wildlife Center staff caught Black Bears #14-0126 and #14-0142 in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. Both bears were given a quick physical examination and were weighed; both proved to be difficult to capture – they wanted nothing to do with people!

Black Bear #14-0126 weighed in at 12.5 kg and was in good body condition. While the veterinary team did not listen to her heart, Dr. Kristin said that the feisty bear’s pulse was strong during a quick blood draw. The rehabilitation staff then moved bear #14-0126 to the Black Bear Complex [transition area of yard #2]. She wasted no time climbing up one of the small trees to get away from the humans!

Black Bear #14-0142’s body condition is improving, although the veterinary team would like her to gain a little more weight and condition before she is moved to the Bear Complex. The bear currently weighs 9.8 kg.

Black Bear yearling #14-0126 is moving well and has been very active in her enclosure. She has been observed climbing the trees and has been eating well. On March 12, the yearling was introduced to a new roommate — Black Bear yearling #14-0142. Both bears appear comfortable with each other as well as their new enclosure. The Center’s staff will continue to monitor the bears’ behaviors and appetites.

During the weekend, Black Bear #14-0126’s heart rate remained lower than normal, although by March 9, the bear was brighter and more alert. Follow-up blood work indicated that the bear was slightly anemic, but no other abnormalities were noted. The bear is eating a regular bear meal and as of Sunday, had gained two kilograms (4.4 lbs) since admission.

The veterinary team decided to move the bear to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure on March 9. The team will continue to monitor the bear via webcam, and will perform additional blood work on March 17.

On March 5, Dr. Rich Sim noted that Black Bear #14-0126’s heart rate was low. The bear’s heart rate was measured at 66 beats per minute; a typical heart rate for a bear this age would be about 120-130 beats per minute.

The veterinary team performed an electrocardiogram on the bear – this test looks at the electrical signal being produced by the heart. It showed that the bear’s heart is producing normal electrical signals, but they are occurring at an abnormally slow rate and are occurring irregularly. Despite having weak pulses, the bear’s blood pressure was also normal. A blood sample was taken, which showed that the bear’s electrolytes were normal. Electrolyte imbalances can be a cause of a slow heart rate like we are measuring in this bear. At this point, the team is not able to determine a cause of the low heart rate; it just appears that the heart is not firing an electrical signal at a regular rhythm.

The bear is being checked on a frequent basis and seems stable. In fact, she appeared to be brighter on the morning of March 6 with stronger pulses, though the heart rate is still low. When she gets excited, her heart rate does increase appropriately. The bear is eating well, and is currently weighing in at 9.30 kg. The team will continue to closely monitor the bear over the next few days.