Black Bear cub #18-2926 [Pink/Orange Tags]

October 15, 2018
May 24, 2019
Rescue Location
Botetourt County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Hit by car
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On October 14, a female Black Bear cub was found on the side of the road in Botetourt County, likely after being hit by a car. The cub was brought to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center for stabilization before she could be transferred to the Wildlife Center the next morning.

During the initial examination, Dr. Karra identified abrasions on cub #18-2926’s head and jaw, along with a laceration on the right front leg and instability in the elbow joint. Radiographs revealed a displaced fracture in the right elbow. The cub was otherwise in decent body condition, and the injuries are consistent with physical trauma, like being hit by a car.

The elbow fracture is severe and in a challenging and potentially problematic location; the fracture involves the joint as well as the cub’s growth plates, and surgical repair could be difficult. Even with a surgical repair, the cub could have reduced range of motion and could face arthritis in the future.

The Center’s veterinary team consulted with a board-certified surgeon, Dr. Alex Padron of Virginia Veterinary Surgical Associates, who has assisted the Center by performing several challenging surgical repairs on bears in the past two years.

Dr. Padron believes there is a good prognosis for the joint if he can get appropriate reduction during surgery. If there isn’t too much swelling or muscle and tendon contracture around the fracture, and if Dr. Padron is able to get the fracture into an anatomically correct place, the elbow should have normal function following recovery. Dr. Padron has agreed to perform surgery on the cub on Friday, October 19.

The Center’s veterinary team splinted the fractured forelimb, cleaned the wounds, and administered antibiotics and pain medication. The cub did not eat during her first night in the clinic, likely due to stress from her trauma and rescue. The staff will monitor her appetite in the coming days.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this injured Black Bear cub — and more than 3,000 patients admitted this year. Please help!

Patient Updates

Black Bear #18-2926 has been doing well since his tooth extraction; the bear is eating regular food and has had no further issues. A biologist from the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries will pick up the bear for release, along with fellow yearling #19-0328, on Friday, May 24.

On May 11, Dr. Karra and veterinary technician intern Jess took Black Bear #18-2926 to the Augusta Valley Animal Hospital for a tooth extraction. Dr. Patrick, along with several of his co-workers, volunteered their time and clinic resources to perform the surgery. Dr. Patrick found that the tooth had split in half, allowing food and other material to become impacted in the broken tooth; the extraction went well and the bear recovered smoothly.

The bear was returned to the Center’s Bear Pens and is currently eating a soft diet; if all goes well, the bear may be released as early as next week.

Photos from surgery: 

Dr. Patrick, hard at work: 

The bear received laser treatment after the extraction; the staff made sure to protect the bear’s eyes with a pair of doggles!

Post-op radiographs: 

A big thank you to the Augusta Valley Animal Hospital team: Dr. Patrick Robertson, Dr. Lisa Carter, technician Denise Kelly, and office manager Laura Back!

Black Bear yearling #18-2926 will be scheduled for tooth extraction surgery within the next week; the procedure will be done at Augusta Valley Animal Hospital by Dr. Patrick Robertson. Dr. Patrick has been volunteering at the Wildlife Center once a week and the clinic will be donating their time and services for this procedure.

After surgery, the bear will return to the Center to recover; the team will monitor the bear for at least 10 days post-surgery before release.

Black Bear #18-2926 has been doing well in the Center’s Black Bear Pen since the discovery of her tooth root abscess; the rehabilitation team have been feeding the bear a mostly soft diet, and have also gotten creative with a variety of edible “treats” that hide antibiotic pills. The Center is working with a local small-animal veterinary clinic to perform the surgery in late April or early May; this will allow the bear time to receive a full course of antibiotics prior to the procedure.

Now that the other Black Bears of 2018 have been released, bear #18-2926 will be moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure later this week.

This past weekend, the rehabilitation staff have been keeping a close eye on the four bears in yard #1 of the Black Bear Complex – particularly Pink/Orange Tag. On Saturday, rehabilitator Kelsey reported, “Good news, all. Today, ‘elbow bear’ was our highest climber, up ~50 ft. in a tree.”

Last week, after Drs. Ernesto and Peach realized that the bear’s elbow fracture had not healed ideally, Dr. Ernesto reached out to Dr. Padron, the board-certified surgeon who operated on Pink/Orange Tag’s elbow. Dr. Padron responded but agreed that we just can’t predict what long-term implications this injury will have for the growing bear. December radiographs of the bear’s limb confirmed that the surgical screw is no longer in place; Dr. Padron believes it’s not helping the bear at this point, but Dr. Padron would be hesitant to remove the screw since surgery will cause additional stress and could lead to another fracture. Dr. Padron’s impression is that the bear has been compensating well and has shifted the weight-bearing forces to the outside part of the elbow.

All veterinarians agree that it’s a promising sign that the bear is able to walk and climb well – something that has only improved during the past couple of days. The staff will continue to monitor the bear in the half-acre yard and will take additional radiographs in the spring, as all bears get closer to release time.

On January 3, Black Bear #18-2926 [Pink/Orange Tags aka “elbow bear”] was darted and anesthetized for a follow-up examination and radiographs. The staff have been carefully observing the bear during the last few weeks; the bear will occasionally hold her old injured limb close to her body, but she does place the leg normally and has been seen climbing logs in the Large Mammal enclosure.

Dr. Peach, student Ria, and technician Jaclyn were able to take radiographs on the bear’s elbow and found that the elbow joint did not heal completely; the team knew in October that this would be a very difficult fracture to overcome, particularly in a young, growing bear. Dr. Ernesto sent an email to Dr. Padron, the board-certified surgeon who performed the surgery last fall. The team is concerned about potential long-term problems since the bear is not yet full-grown.

In the meantime, the bear was moved to transition area #1 in the Black Bear Complex. Dr. Ernesto wants to see how the bear is able to use the leg and climb in a larger space. Double Pink’s roommate – Black Bear #18-2921 [Green/Orange Tags] – was also moved on January 3.

The bear weighed in at 29 kg.

On Friday, November 30, Black Bear cub #18-2926 was anesthetized for radiographs to check on the healing progress of the bear’s fractured elbow. The cub has not been walking properly on his front limb, and based on observation, appeared to have a limited range of motion.

When the cub was fully sedated, Dr. Ernesto was able to see that the intramedullary (IM) pin that was initially inserted into the bear’s fractured bone had migrated – which sometimes happens after surgery. Dr. Ernesto estimated that the bear’s right elbow had about 85% extension and limited rotation. Radiographs confirmed that the fractured joint had not healed in an ideal position. Dr. Ernesto removed the IM pin and tagged the bear for identification – a pink tag in the right ear, and an orange in the left.

The bear recovered from anesthesia and was placed in the Large Mammal enclosure with Black Bear cub #18-2921 – the cub that has been recovering from a jaw fracture.

Dr. Ernesto reached out to Dr. Padron, who surgically repaired the bear in October. Dr. Padron recommended allowing the bear to walk around in the larger space in the Large Mammal enclosure for the next week, and to carefully observe if the bear’s gait and range of motion improve at all. If no, Dr. Padron recommends removing the screw at the bear’s surgical site. If Dr. Ernesto needs to go to surgery to remove the screw, the bear will once again need to be placed on cage rest for four weeks.

So far, the two cubs are wary of one another but are getting along.

On October 25, Black Bear cub #18-2926 was shifted from a zinger crate to the connecting chute in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. Rehabilitation staff report that the cub is eating well and able to move around the limited space, but she does not appear to be placing full weight on her recently-repaired right forelimb.

The cub will remain in the connecting chute of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure for another six to eight weeks while staff continue to monitor the bear’s progress.

Black Bear cub #18-2926 recovered from Friday’s surgery well. The bear is eating well and getting to see and smell her neighbor, bear cub #18-2921.

Cub #18-2926 will need to be cage-rested for eight weeks to fully allow her fracture to heal. At that point, the veterinary team will take radiographs to check on the bear’s elbow. She’s currently on a course of antibiotics to treat an open wound over the fracture.

Dr. Karra and veterinary technician intern Jess took Black Bear cub #18-2926 to Virginia Veterinary Surgical Associates on the morning of October 19 for surgery. Dr. Padron was able to successfully stabilize the bear’s fractured elbow; he was pleased with the outcome and the bear recovered well from anesthesia.

The bear will be placed in the small connecting chute between the two halves of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure; this will give the bear limited space so that her elbow can heal in the coming weeks.