Black Bear cub #17-0760

May 2, 2017
Rescue Location
Alleghany County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Separated from mother
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

During the last week of April, a citizen who was kayaking in Alleghany County saw a lone bear cub on a river bank. The finder took some photos and consulted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). Biologists asked the finder if she’d be willing to go out by kayak again days later to look for the lone cub; she did, and was able to capture the cub.

Jaime Sajecki, the VDGIF Black Bear Project Leader, picked up the cub on May 2, though first, the cub was taken by the finder to a local high school for photos. While we’re very appreciative of the bear rescue, the Wildlife Center encourages wildlife rescuers to keep injured and orphaned animals in a box or crate in a dark, quiet place — wild animals can become easily stressed, and additional human contact can be risky for both animal and people.

Upon admission, Dr. Peach examined the small male cub and found that he was thin and dehydrated, but had no injuries. Radiographs and blood work were performed and were within normal limits. Dr. Peach also performed a skin scraping — a routine procedure for all bear patients, whether or not they have signs of hair loss. The cub had no hair loss, so veterinary technician intern Emily was surprised to identify mites on the skin scraping. The bear will be treated for mites with an anti-parasitic and will be housed separately from the other cubs until treatment is done. The cub weighed 1.78 kg. A green ear tag was placed each of the bear’s ears.

The cub will join the other seven bear cubs currently in care — the rehabilitation staff have their hands full!

At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release! Your donation will help provide long-term care and rehabilitation to this cub until he’s ready to go back to the wild. 

Patient Updates

During the past few months, the veterinary team has had growing concerns about Black Bear #17-0760’s behavior. All of the yearling bears in the Bear Complex have limited contact with staff; the three rehabilitation team members [Brie, Kelsey, and Shannon] are the only ones who feed the bears. While it’s normal to have the bears recognize (and bond with) those three people, the overall limited contact with other people helps to ensure that the bears don’t get used to many different people.

To monitor the bears’ behavior, some of the veterinarians at the Center occasionally go to the bear yards for a health and behavioral check. The bears are not used to seeing these individuals and typically react appropriately: they are startled by the strangers, and many bears move farther away from the unknown people. Some huff and climb trees to get farther away. This is the ideal situation; the bears know the few people who feed them, but overall regard people as potential threats.

Since admission, Bear #17-0760 [Double Green Tags] has been friendlier toward people than any of the other bears. The cub was admitted to the Center last April; some of the details surrounding the rescue of the small cub are unclear. The bear was seen on a river bank by a  citizen who was kayaking; after consulting with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), the rescuer searched for the cub days later and was able to locate and rescue him. The cub spent minimal amount of time in the finder’s care, though was taken to a local high school for photos first. This situation led to additional contact time with the bear cub with a variety of people. The cub exhibited the kind of behavior that Center staff would typically expect from a cub that had been kept illegally for several weeks.

The staff hoped that the young bear would outgrow this behavior; unfortunately, that has not happened. In recent months, the veterinary staff continued to evaluate the bear, who did not change his behavior toward people. The staff discussed the bear’s behavior with biologists from the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries; together, the decision was made that the bear could not be released back to the wild due to concern for bear safety and public safety. An attempt was made to find a suitable placement option for the bear at an accredited facility, but no options are available at this time. Since neither release nor placement is an option, the staff and DGIF biologists made the very difficult decision to humanely euthanize the bear.

The staff may never get all of the details of this cub’s early life and may never fully understand why this bear had permanent behavioral changes. It may be that the contact with many people during an impressionable period of the cub’s life, possibly after traumatically being separated from his mother, did irreparable harm. Wild bears need to be wild — this and similar cases underscores the tragic consequences of ill-conceived human intervention.