Black Bear #16-0054

February 12, 2016
June 16, 2016
Rescue Location
Christiansburg, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Very thin
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On Sunday, February 7, a small yearling Black Bear was spotted in a tree on a homeowner’s property in Christiansburg, Virginia. The homeowner contacted the Wildlife Center, thinking that the bear was an orphaned cub. A Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries biologist went to the property to assess the bear and identified it as a yearling, no longer dependent on its mother. The bear was behaving normally despite being unusually small for a yearling.

During the week of February 8, the bear received a lot of unwanted attention, including many visitors and food offerings. Due to the increasing attention, and the proximity to homes and roads, it became unsafe to leave the bear in its habitat. It was captured on the morning of February 12 by the DGIF biologist and taken to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Drs. Helen and Dana examined the yearling after admission. Dr. Helen reports that the bear was bright, alert, and feisty, but very dehydrated and thin. The female yearling weighed in at 5.37 kg.

Radiographs revealed an old, healed pelvis fracture but showed no current issues. Blood work indicated that the bear was anemic and had a low total protein, but other blood results were within normal limits. The bear received fluids, iron, and a prophylactic anti-parasitic medication.

A black ear tag was placed in the bear’s right ear before she was placed in a zinger crate for the night. The veterinary team will monitor the small bear throughout the weekend. If the bear is doing well, she’ll be placed in the transition area of yard #1 in the Center’s Black Bear Complex. This will allow her to see, smell, and hear the seven other yearling bears at the Center without direct interaction. The bear will likely stay at the Center for the immediate future and will be released with the seven other bears this spring.

Your special donation will help the Center to provide care to this Black Bear … and all of the patients admitted in 2016. Please help!

Patient Updates

Black Bear yearling #16-0304 [Green Tag] was not captured on June 15, but the rehabilitation staff tried again on the morning of June 16, and did manage to lure the bear into the large live trap just after noon. The staff left the bear in the transition area of the Bear Complex and split into two teams for synchronized bear darting.

Dr. Dana darted Green Tag and successfully loaded him into the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries transport container. Meanwhile, Dr. Helen darted yearling #16-0054 [No Tag] and yearling #16-0354 [Orange Tag] in the Center’s Bear Pens. No Tag needed to be darted a second time; Dr. Helen was able to then successful remove the bear from the enclosure for a quick physical exam. The bear was examined and weighed, and licensed veterinary technician Leigh-Ann drew blood on the bear for analysis. The yearling weighed 25.7 kg.

Orange Tag had to be darted a second time after he partially woke up as Dr. Helen started removing him from the den of Bear Pen #2. Dr. Helen quickly left the enclosure, and the bear appeared to fully wake up and climbed into the “sink” of the bear pen.

The bear was ultimately darted a third time … and then a fourth time to ensure he was fully asleep. The bears were quickly loaded into the Center’s Subaru and driven to the Black Bear Complex to join Green Tag in the DGIF transport container. The bears will be released this evening.

The VDGIF biologist reported: "All three [bears] bounced right out and were heading towards a beautiful swamp full of blackberries! Berries look almost ripe."

Release photo from VDGIF biologist:

Today, Center veterinary staff are preparing for tomorrow’s yearling release – using the “tried and true” method of tempting yearlings with fried chicken!

In the summer of 2014, the staff were able to lure and trap two yearlings and five cubs in very large live traps in preparation for release. The three yearlings that are currently ready for release are fairly wary, but the staff hoped that the tempting smell of a one-time treat will be enough to lure them into a trap. If and when they are trapped, they will be moved to the Center’s bear pen enclosure, where they can be quickly and safely darted for release tomorrow.

The traps were set this morning, and the rehabilitation staff have been checking on the traps hourly to see if any bears take the bait. As of noon, two yearlings fell for it – female yearling #16-0054 and male yearling #16-0354 [Orange Tag]. The bears were safely moved to the Center’s bear pen. The staff will continue to check to see if yearling #16-0304 [Green Tag] is trapped this afternoon.

Black Bear yearlings #16-0304 (Green Tag) and #16-0354 (Orange Tag) have been doing well in the Black Bear Complex since last week’s move. The bears are climbing trees and exploring their new area.

Drs. Helen and Dana have been in touch with Jaime Sajecki, the Black Bear Project Leader with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, to talk about scheduling a yearling release. Early next week, a biologist with DGIF will drop off a bear culvert trap/transport carrier. The rehabilitation staff will attempt to lure the two male yearlings into the transition area on Wednesday, June 15, so that Drs. Dana and Helen can dart and sedate the bears on Thursday morning. The sedated bears will be moved into the trap for transportation for release.

Black Bear yearling #16-0054 (No Tag) is also ready for release, but this little female yearling has been extremely wary of people, and typically stays in a tree anytime humans are around. Due to the particular type of culvert trap available, Drs. Helen and Dana will need to load all sedated bears into the trap at once, which will require the bears to be darted at the same time. Due to the behavior of yearling #16-0054, the vets are predicting that it won’t be possible to dart all three yearlings at the same time.

Once the two male yearlings are released, the staff will plan the release of yearling #16-0054.

As the final two bears of 2015 were being darted and prepped for release on April 20, Dr. Dave was able to successfully dart Black Bear yearling #16-0054 (“Black Tag”). The yearling was very cautious but stayed on the ground long enough for Dr. Dave to dart her. Dr. Dave had to follow up twice with additional injections to ensure the bear was fully asleep and safe enough to handle for an examination.

Dr. Dave said that the bear yearling is in good condition; she weighed in at 15 kg. Dr. Dave and VDGIF Black Bear Project Leader Jaime discussed the possibility of release, but both agreed that ideally, the yearling would be between 40-50 pounds to give her the best advantage. The bear will remain at the Center to gain additional weight and will be released sometime this summer.

During the bear’s physical examination, Dr. Dave also noted that the bear’s right ear tip was torn and that the black identification tag was missing. It’s unclear if the bear pulled it out herself, if it was caught on something, or if another bear got close enough to pull it out. At this point, there’s no need for an additional identification tag, and the ear is healed.

The bear was placed into Bear Yard #2, which has been unused for more than a year, and has much more greenery. This move will give the bear much more to explore and experience, and will also allow the staff to make some repairs to yard #1.


Black Bear yearling #16-0054 (Black Tag) is doing well in the Center’s Black Bear Complex. She’s often found resting in the top of a tree, keeping an eye on everything down below. During the week of March 21, the veterinary team performed pre-release examinations on the seven bears admitted in 2015; while the team wanted to examine Black Tag, she couldn’t be convinced to come down. She did, however, defecate from her high perch – indicating that she has been eating well in the complex with the other bears.

On Thursday, March 17, interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra opened the gate between transition area #1 and yard #1 of the Black Bear Complex. This was done in preparation for pre-release health checks for the other seven bears at the Center, but also effectively introduced Black Bear yearling #16-0054 to the other bears.

Kendra reports that the little female yearling wasn’t impressed – she retreated to her den when the gate was opened, and when the other bears came to check her out, she loudly huffed and stomped at them. All of the other bears were quick to retreat and leave her alone.

While “Black Tag” won’t undergo the same pre-release checks that the other seven bears will next week, she may be able to be released in mid-April with the others. The staff will continue to monitor her appetite, behavior, and weight gain in the next few weeks.

Black Bear yearling #16-0054 continues to recover in the transition area of the Center’s Black Bear Complex. The bear is eating her food and has been seen walking around in the transition enclosure, but typically retreats to the safety of her den when the rehabilitation staff deliver food.

The yearling will likely remain by herself so that she can continue to eat food without competition from the seven other large yearlings in yard #1.


Black Bear #16-0054 has been doing well during the past few days. Interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra began offering the bear’s food in a bowl near the den so that the staff could more accurately assess how much the bear is eating; the rehabilitation staff report that the bear typically drags the bowl into the den with her after her meal is served. The yearling is has been spotted walking around the transition area several times in the past few days but seems to spend most of her time in the den.

Black Bear yearling #16-0054 was moved to the transition area of yard #1 in the Center’s Black Bear Complex on Saturday, February 13. A variety of food was left for the small yearling – dog food, seeds, berries, vegetables, and insects. On February 14, interim wildlife rehabilitator Jordan noted that it didn’t look like the yearling had eaten; on February 15, the bear was not active and hunkered down in her den during the latest winter weather.

On February 17, the bear was spotted out of the den and walking around the transition area. Interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra and Dr. Helen decided to see if they could catch and weigh the Black Bear, to check on exactly how much she’s been eating at the Center. The bear retreated to her den and refused to come out – despite the yearling’s tiny size, the bear was feisty and difficult to handle. After several attempts, Dr. Helen and Kendra gave up and decided to leave the bear alone, but they inspected the enclosure and were happy to find an appropriate amount of bear feces that were full of seeds and berries.