Black Bear cub #16-1654

July 22, 2016
April 13, 2017
Rescue Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Hit by vehicle
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On Friday, July 22, a woman was driving past the Wildlife Center of Virginia and saw the car in front of her hit both a Black Bear sow and a cub as they crossed the road. The sow spun around and continued into the woods just off of the road; the cub remained motionless at the side of the road. The woman immediately came into the Center’s lobby to report the incident.

Dr. Dave, the Center’s director of veterinary services, and rehabilitation intern Tori quickly gathered safety equipment and went to investigate. They saw the sow and a healthy cub in the woods; the cub that was hit by the vehicle was still alive. They quickly captured the cub, jumped into the truck of the person who saw the entire incident, and brought the young bear into the Center’s hospital for emergency treatment.

The cub was bleeding from the mouth, and radiographs showed a jaw fracture and internal bleeding. The female cub weighed in at 12.5 kg and is in very grave condition. Dr. Dave and licensed veterinary technician Leigh-Ann are attempting to administer life-saving treatment.

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

Patient Updates

Black Bear cubs #16-1654 [Pink Tag] and #16-1813 have been doing well in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure during the past few weeks. Pink Tag has recovered well from her jaw fracture and appears to be fully healed. On Thursday, the two cubs will gain additional roommates — neighbor #16-1713 [Double Pink Tag] will be introduced, and it’s also likely that the door to neighboring cubs Green Tag and Orange Tag will be opened. This means the five bear cubs in the Large Mammal Isolation will have access to the full enclosure for about a week before some (if not all) move to the Black Bear Complex.

Black Bear cub #16-1654 has been doing well in the week following her "hardware" removal. The cub has been eating well and was slowly transition from a soft meal to a regular "hard" bear cub meal, which includes dog food, bird seed, fruits, veggies, insects, and fish.

On Tuesday, August 16, Dr. Ernesto darted the bear and noted that everything in the bear’s jaw felt stable and healed. He placed a pink identification tag in the bear’s left ear, and the cub was moved to the Large Mammal Isolation Complex for additional observation as well as to keep cub #16-1813 company.

On August 8, Dr. Ernesto checked on Black Bear cub #16-1654. He noted that the cub’s external fixator looked slightly different — it appeared as though the stabilizing jaw fixator may have moved slightly. On Tuesday, August 9, the bear was darted and anesthetized for a full examination.

Both Drs. Ernesto and Dave were pleased to find that everything was still in place — and the bear’s healing jaw fracture looked great. The bone appeared to be well calloused, and the jaw felt very stable. Initially, the team was aiming to leave the fixator in place for four weeks; after additional planning, they decided three weeks would likely be sufficient, since this cub is young and growing, and leaving the fixator in for too long could result in long-term issues as the cub grows.

Based on the radiographs and physical exam, Drs. Ernesto and Dave felt it was safe to remove the external fixator. The stabilizing bar was cut off, and the pins inserted into the bear’s jaw were removed. The cub will continue to receive soft food for the rest of the week. The veterinarians hope to move the cub to the Bear Complex later this month.

On August 4, Drs. Ernesto and Peach darted and anesthetized Black Bear cub #16-1654 for follow-up radiographs. It’s been nearly two weeks since the bear’s surgery.

Both veterinarians were pleased with the healing progress of the bear’s fractured jaw. The bear hasn’t been bothering her external fixator, despite not wearing a protective e-collar. Additional radiographs are scheduled for August 18, and the veterinarians will make a plan for removing the fixator based on the results that day.

The bear was returned to the Center’s bear pen and recovered without incident. The cub will continue to be fed a very soft meal of canned dog food, soaked dog chow, berries, and tuna during the next two weeks. A special thanks to the bear’s rescuer for donating canned dog food and berries!

Black Bear #16-1654 did well in the Center’s bear pen throughout the weekend. The cub is exploring her enclosure, eating well, and not bothering her external fixator. On August 3, Dr. Ernesto will anesthetize the bear for a 10-day post-op evaluation.

What a difference a week makes! One week following her admission, Black Bear cub #16-1654 is enough of a handful that she’s making daily treatments quite difficult for the veterinary staff. The bear’s breathing has greatly improved, and she no longer requires sedation. Today, the team decided to move her to the outdoor Bear Pen enclosure where she’ll have more room. At this point, the staff will offer her pain medication and antibiotics in her (very soft) food twice a day.

Black Bear cub #16-1654 continues to slowly improve. Dr. Ernesto reported that the cub was more feisty today, and getting difficult to handle. The bear cub ate her very soft meal last night — a mix of canned dog food, very small pieces of softened strawberries, and baby food. Since the cub is getting difficult to handle, as long as she continues to self-feed, tomorrow will be her last day of injectable medications. The bear will be switched to oral medications (delivered in her food) on Friday.

Dr. Ernesto was pleased to report that Black Bear cub #16-1654 was brighter and even a little feisty on the morning of July 26. The cub managed to get her e-collar off, and did eat her soft meal yesterday evening. While at rest, the cub is breathing a little more easily, and Dr. Ernesto discontinued the supplemental oxygen. When the bear is restrained for treatments, the bear still wheezes and has difficulty breathing, but the staff is encouraged by her progress.

Dr. Ernesto checked and cleaned the pins on the bear’s external fixator, administered pain medications and antibiotics, and offered the bear more food, which she ate. The e-collar was reapplied and the bear was placed back in the Center’s holding room. As long as the bear keeps eating, she shouldn’t require a feeding tube.

Black Bear cub #16-1654 pulled through the weekend. On Saturday morning, the bear was very quiet and easily restrained; the bear had harsh breathing sounds due to fluid in her chest cavity. Dr. Peach took chest radiographs and performed a thoracentesis — a puncture and drainage of the thoracic cavity. Dr. Peach removed about five milliliters of air from both sides of the bear’s chest, though no significant amount of blood or fluid was removed. The lack of blood from the thoracic cavity indicates that there is likely not blood surrounding the cub’s lungs, but the cub continues to have difficulty breathing due to pulmonary contusions (bruising in the lungs).

On Sunday morning, the bear was quiet but alert and was vocalizing in her enclosure. Dr. Ernesto kept the cub sedated throughout the day to limit her activity through this critical healing period; the bear is currently receiving a sedative twice a day. The cub continued to have an increased respiratory effort and continued to receive supplemental oxygen. The bear ate a small amount of a soft, highly digestible canned diet, but not enough to sustain the bear during this period of healing. If the bear does not eat on Monday, July 25, the veterinary team plan to place a feeding tube for short-term nutritional support.

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Dr. Dave and licensed veterinary technician Leigh-Ann took the bear cub to surgery within an hour of her admission. Dr. Dave was able to successfully stabilize the cub’s jaw fracture with an external fixator; four metal pins were inserted perpendicular into the bear’s jaw, then a metal bar was attached to the pins parallel to the bottom jaw.

Leigh-Ann placed a protective e-collar around the bear’s head to ensure that the cub couldn’t disturb her new piece of hardware; Leigh-Ann opted for some "supergirl" duct tape in honor of the cub.

The bear was placed in a zinger crate in the Center’s holding room and recovered well from the emergency surgery. The staff will offer a liquid diet to the cub this weekend; if the cub doesn’t eat on her own, a feeding tube may need to be placed. The next 72 hours following surgery will be critical, particularly because the bear has so much internal trauma.