Black Bear #19-3305 [Pink Tag]

December 19, 2019
Rescue Location
Augusta County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Thin, mites
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On December 16, a young Black Bear cub was reported to have approached a hunter in the woods in Augusta County, Virginia. There was no sow seen in the area, and the bear was picked up and given to a private citizen where it was kept in a house for three days. The bear was transported to the Wildlife Center and admitted on December 19.

Dr. Karra, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the small female cub when she arrived. The bear was very thin and dehydrated, weighing only 7.8 kg with a body condition score of 2/5. No injuries were found, but a physical exam revealed mild flaking of the skin with some crusts and mats in the fur. A skin scrape revealed ursicoptes mites, and a fecal analysis confirmed that the bear had a high number of internal parasites.

An anti-parasitic medication was given, along with fluids, and Dr. Karra placed a pink identification tag in the bear’s right ear. The bear was placed in a zinger crate in the Center’s indoor ICU for the night and was moved to an outdoor Bear Pen on December 20.

At this point, the cub is much too small to be placed in one of the Center’s large outdoor Bear Yards. The veterinary staff will closely monitor the bear’s nutrition and treatment for parasites during the coming months.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care for this juvenile Black Bear — and more than 3,000 other patients that the Center will treat in 2019. Thank you!

Patient Updates

On May 3, the veterinary team darted and anesthetized Black Bear yearling #19-3305 for a full evaluation, including radiographs. The team has been troubled by the severe damage to the bear’s nails; while a few broken nails on the front paws would not be unusual, particularly after being caught in a live trap, the team noted last week that nearly every nail was broken off, which is very unusual. The staff have always been concerned with this bear’s overall appearance; on admission, they noted her stunted growth and smaller skull. A variety of additional blood tests performed over the winter were inconclusive.

When the team radiographed the bear’s paws, they were able to see that the underlying bone in nearly all of the nails was missing. Unfortunately, without underlying bone, the keratin of the nails would never grow back, affecting the bear’s ability to successfully forage, avoid danger, and defend herself. Sadly, with the severity of the nail issue, combined with the abnormal size and shape of the bear, Dr. Ernesto suspects that the bear has some sort of genetic or congenital issue. The team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the bear.

On April 29, the rehabilitation team was able to successfully trap Pink Tag out of Black Bear yard #1! They baited the live trap with Chick-fil-A, and after days of evading the team, Pink Tag was down the tree and in the trap within 30 minutes.

Dr. Karra and team performed a full physical examination, including blood work, as the final release preparation for this yearling bear. They moved her to the transition yard of the Bear Complex, so that they can more efficiently dart and sedate her for final loading when the DGIF biologists are able to return. During the physical examination, the staff noticed that Pink Tag had a number of broken claws; despite this, the bear is still able to climb trees. Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey will be speaking with a DGIF bear biologist on Tuesday, May 5, to determine the next steps for release.

On February 13, Black Bear yearlings #19-3305 (Pink Tag) and #19-3282 (Green Tag), were successfully moved from their individual Bear Pen enclosures to the transition area of the Center’s Bear Complex! Before the move, Dr. Claire sedated the bears so that she could test a skin scrape sample for mites, a fecal sample for internal parasites, and draw blood for later testing. Test results were within normal limits, and the yearlings have increased in weight. Veterinary staff report that each yearling is in good body condition. Before the move, each bear was weighed:

Pink Tag: 18.5 kg

Green Tag: 26.2 kg

Both of the bears made an uneventful recovery from sedation, but will remain within the transition area for an undetermined amount of time. Wildlife rehabilitators Shannon and Kelsey will closely observe both of the yearlings during the coming days to evaluate when it will be appropriate to allow them full-access to Bear Yard 1.

On Saturday, January 18, the veterinary team anesthetized Black Bear #19-3305 for a follow-up physical examination, blood work, and skin scrapes.

Dr. Karra, the Center’s senior veterinary intern, found that the bear was in excellent body condition, with a body condition score of 3/5 [a score of 1/5 is very thin, and a score of 5/5 is very overweight].  The bear weighed 15 kg, which is more than double than her admission weight [7.3 kg]. A complete blood count was within normal limits and indicated that the bear’s anemia had resolved. The skin scrapes were negative for mites.

The bear was moved to Bear Pen 2, so that she can get to know her neighbor, Black Bear #19-3292, in Bear Pen 3.

While the bear has gained weight and has met the weight requirement [10 kg] for moving to the Black Bear Complex overall, Dr. Karra noted that the bear was still quite small in stature. Additional blood work was sent out on Monday, January 20, to check for any additional health issues that may explain the bear’s small stature, though it also may just be due to being undernourished for a period of time this fall.

Both bears in the Center’s Bear Pens received their  “birthday cakes” on Saturday after the procedure.

Black Bear #19-3292 and cake!