Black Bear cub #14-0018

January 10, 2014
Rescue Location
Alleghany County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Emaciated, old fractures
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On January 9, a small Black Bear cub was seen in a field beside Alleghany High School in Covington, Virginia. The cub appeared to be lethargic, the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries was contacted, and a conservation police officer responded to the scene. The cub was transported to the Wildlife Center on the morning of January 10.

Dr. Kristin Britton, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the cub when it arrived. The female cub, patient #14-0018, is emaciated and dehydrated – weighing in at just 3.8 kg.

The cub was anesthetized for radiographs and blood work. Dr. Kristin found that the cub has an old, healed fracture of her mandible, which is likely more than a month old. This very likely caused the cub difficulty in eating, in a year that is already scarce in resources for bears. Radiographs also revealed an old fracture in the bear’s hind left leg, injuries to the knee and surrounding ligaments, and suspected pneumonia.

The staff will provided intravenous fluids to the cub and will also place a feeding tube into the cub’s stomach. At this point, prognosis is poor.

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Patient Updates

During the past two months, the Wildlife Center staff have kept a close eye on all of the Critter Cams to watch the progress of the 2013 and 2014 Black Bears. Beginning in February, the staff restricted all human interaction with the bears to give the 2013 bears plenty of time away from humans prior to their assessment and release. The Critter Cams were valuable monitoring tools – even if we couldn’t cover all four corners of each bear yard! Within this period of time, four recovering yearlings from 2014 were placed into Black Bear Complex yard #2. The team was often able to spot a yearling or two in various trees in the enclosures, although the team was never able to see all four 2014 yearlings at once.

In early April, when DGIF and the Wildlife Center staff went into Bear Complex to assess the 2013 bears for possible release, no one was able to identify Black Bear yearling #14-0018. The staff carefully checked through the yard, and continued to watch on the Critter Cam in the weeks that followed. By late April, when the 2013 bears were darted in yard #2, there was still no sign of #14-0018, even after an additional search of the yard.

At this point, the team is unsure where #14-0018 went. When the bear was first put in the yard, she displayed that she could quite easily climb up and down trees, and was very mobile. The team was not able to identify any escape routes, but they will continue to assess the Black Bear Complex.

Black Bear yearling #14-0018 was caught up today for repeat blood work and an examination. The team decided last week that once the bear reached 10.0 kg, they would move the yearling to the Bear Complex. Today, bear #14-0018 weighed in at 11.3 kg. Dr. Kristin said that the bear is in very good body condition, and is actually “like a little butterball.”

The veterinary team carried the yearling in a zinger crate to transition area #2 in the Black Bear complex. As soon as the door to the zinger crate was opened, the bear shot out of the crate and quickly ran around the new space – away from the humans. She appeared to have no issues running on her hind leg.

The gate to yard #2 was opened to allow her to explore the larger area in the complex – which is also housing three other yearling bears. Once the gate opened, one of the yearlings from the yard came into the transition area to check out the new bear. Bear #14-0018 quickly climbed a tree, with no problems. The team will continue to observe the bears via Critter Cam, and will monitor additional tree-climbing by bear #14-0018.


Black Bear yearling #14-0018 was caught and anesthetized for radiographs today. Dr. Kristin was also able to provide a physical examination, and carefully manipulated the bear’s hind legs while she was under anesthesia.

At this point, there is no change in the bear’s injured joint – the laxity [looseness] is no better and no worse. The bear is able to run and climb right now, and is mobile despite the altered gait. The veterinary team will need to discuss the plan for this yearling bear. There is no short-term concern, though the team is unable to predict what issues the bear may have with her leg when she is a full-grown adult. For now, the bear will remain in the Large Mammal enclosure for further observation. At some point, the staff will put the bear in the Black Bear Complex, where she can practice climbing.

Dr. Kristin is happy to report that the bear currently weighs 8.3 kg and is in good body condition.

The veterinary and rehabilitation staff observed Black Bear #14-0018 via webcam throughout the weekend. Dr. Kristin is fairly pleased with how well the small bear is getting around on her injured hind leg. While the bear’s gait is not what would be considered “normal”, #14-0018 appears to be adapting to her old injury and can maneuver well. The bear is able to run and climb, and with her current level of activity, the veterinary team do not believe she is uncomfortable.

The staff will continue to observe the bear this week. On Thursday, February 6, additional radiographs will be taken of the bear’s leg.

Black Bear yearling #14-0018 continues to make improvements each day. On January 30, Dr. Kristin listened to the bear’s lungs again and noted that the bear’s right lung field sounds much better. The bear is feisty and is eating well, so the veterinary team decided to prepare to move the bear to the Large Mammal enclosure on January 31.

The bear will have access to just one side of the Large Mammal enclosure, and the staff will be carefully watching the bear to monitor how she uses her injured hind limb. Once the veterinarians have a better idea of how the bear maneuvers on her injured knee, they will be able to formulate the next step in the bear’s treatment plan.

Dr. Kristin reports that Black Bear #14-0018 has been much more feisty and difficult to handle over the past few days. The bear is now eating regular bear meal on her own, and currently weights 6.15 kg – an increase of more than five pounds from her admission weight.

On January 26, the bear was anesthetized for follow-up radiographs. Dr. Kristin noted that the “crackles” heard in the bear’s right lung are only minor at this point; radiographs confirmed improvement. Antibiotic treatment continues.

The team will monitor the bear throughout the week and will draw more blood for analysis on Wednesday. When the bear’s pneumonia is entirely resolved, the staff will begin to acclimate the bear to the outdoor temperatures. The tentative plan at this point is to move the bear to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, where the use of her injured leg can be carefully observed via Critter Cam.

Black Bear #13-2606 will remain in the Center’s Bear Complex to become a potential companion for bear #14-0018.

Dr. Kristin notes that Black Bear #14-0018 has been slightly brighter and more feisty over the past weekend. The veterinary team began offering canned A/D, a digestible food designed for the nutritional support of dogs and cats recovering from serious illness, accident, and surgery. When the bear demonstrated that she was willing to eat the food on her own throughout the weekend, Dr. Kristin removed the esophagostomy tube on January 20. The bear will continue to eat this special diet twice a day for the next few days.

The team continues to provide fluids and antibiotics to the small bear. Dr. Kristin noted that the lung sounds continue to improve, though there are still “crackles” heard in the bear’s right lung. The bear currently weighs 5.54 kg.

Black Bear #14-0018 was anesthetized for radiographs today. Dr. Rich Sim, the Center’s veterinary fellow, noted that the bear’s lungs looked clearer on radiographs – a sign that the pneumonia is responding to treatment. Dr. Rich also listened to the bear’s chest; while there were still “crackles” heard on the bear’s right side, there was an improvement noted, and Dr. Rich did not hear the troubling cough that the bear demonstrated earlier in the week.

Tube-feeding through the esophagostomy tube continues, as well as daily fluids. So far, the bear has gained 830 grams – about 1.8 pounds.


Throughout the weekend, Black Bear #14-0018 has shown slight signs of improvement – while the emaciated cub’s condition remains quite guarded, each day Dr. Kristin noted that the cub became a little brighter. As of Monday, January 13, Dr. Kristin noted that the cub is struggling a little more to get away from humans during treatments – which is a good sign!

Dr. Kristin and team continue to tube-feed the cub a highly digestible omnivore diet twice a day through an esophagostomy tube. Medications to help the movement of the cub’s gastro-intestinal tract are also provided through this tube. The team continues to provide fluids each day. The cub is still displaying “harsh lung sounds”, which indicate suspected pneumonia. If the cub continues to gain strength this week, additional radiographs will be taken on January 16 to evaluate the cub’s lungs.