Black Bear cub #23-0529

April 8, 2023
Rescue Location
Bristol, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Separated from mother
Current Patient
Patient photo

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On the evening of April 8, the first Black Bear cub of 2023 was admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia. After the lone cub had been observed for several days near a river in Bristol, Virginia with no sign of a sow in the area, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources biologist rescued the cub and transported it to the Center.

The following morning, veterinary staff examined the female cub and noted that she was very vocal and active. A physical exam revealed the cub was thin and mildly dehydrated, with a body condition score of 2/5. Upon intake, she weighed 2.2 kg. The cub is missing her right ear, which the veterinary team believe is related to an old injury due to scar tissue present along the remaining edges.

Skin scrapes and radiographs were within normal limits, and blood was drawn for a full analysis. Based on the cub’s physical condition and circumstance of rescue, it’s likely that she was orphaned and unable to find sufficient resources on her own.

After administering fluids to treat her dehydration, the cub was placed in a Zinger crate within a secluded indoor enclosure. Rehabilitation staff report that she’s very enthusiastic during bottle-feeding, and plan to bottle-feed her three times per day in addition to offering her a “mush bowl” twice per day.

The day following her admission, the cub was quickly joined by the second Black Bear cub of the year – the two are housed beside one another but don’t yet have direct access.

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Patient Updates

The Black Bear cubs of 2023 have been doing well during the past week. Black Bear #23-0529 [one ear] continues to be one of the more active cubs, and is very vocal throughout the day. She is eating well and gaining weight — on May 8, she weighed in at 3.65 kg. Rehabilitation staff have transitioned to bottle feeding her twice per day while still offering mush bowls and juvenile bear meals twice per day. On May 3, she was transitioned into the full LMI 1 enclosure.


Black Bear cub #23-0681’s umbilicus wound has been healing excellently during the past week, and is nearly closed. A new abscess was observed on her hip, but the veterinary staff note it appears healthy and is not concerning at this time. Most recently, the cub weighed in at 3.01 kg, more than double what she weighed upon intake. Rehabilitation staff are now offering her bottles, mush bowls, and juvenile bear meals two times per day. For now, the cub will remain separated in a large Zinger crate placed inside LMI 1 – where she can see and interact with Black Bear cub #23-0529 — until her wound is completely healed.

The most-recently admitted cub, Black Bear cub #23-0829, is also doing well. She is up to 5.2 kg, and is offered mush bowls once per day in addition to juvenile bear meals twice per day. During daily feedings and care sessions, rehabilitation staff report she is very eager to run and climb within the LMI enclosure chute, and has been using and placing more weight on her left hind leg each day. With these observations in mind, Dr. Karra performed an in-depth physical exam during the past week, and determined that surgical intervention is not needed – for now, staff plan to let the fractured bone heal on its own. Depending on the results of repeat radiographs scheduled for May 11, she may be able to join Black Bear cub #23-0529 freely in LMI 1 following several more days of cage rest.

Black Bear cub #23-0529 [one ear] is doing well, and has been quite active in LMI during the past week. Rehabilitation Team Lead Mac reports that the cub is extremely interested in interacting with Black Bear cub #23-0681 [two ears], and has continued to show pacing behaviors in her enclosure outside of supervised playtime. She’s eating well and gaining weight – she regularly consumes 100% of the bottles that are offered three times per day, and usually eats solid foods overnight. In addition to mush bowls, staff are now offering meals designed for juvenile bears (soaked bear chow or dog food, fruits, and vegetables) twice per day. On May 1, she weighed in at 3 kg. Wrestling with sheets and towels seems to be particularly entertaining for her. To encourage active play and exercise, the rehab team safely secure a few to the LMI chute for her to play with during daily care.

Black Bear cub #23-0681’s [two ears] condition has continued to improve during the past week. Sutures applied to the skin over her umbilicus were unsuccessful in keeping the wound closed, but the area has remained clean and uninfected. Rather than anesthetizing the cub to apply new sutures, the area is cleaned and bandaged with new dressings each day by rehabilitation staff during morning bottle feedings. While the wound heals, oral pain medications and antibiotics are administered with her meals. The cub has increased significantly in weight during the past week – on May 1, she weighed 2.34 kg. Bottles are offered to the cub three times per day, and mush bowls are offered twice per day. Until her bandages can be removed, the limited interactions with cub #23-0529 will be closely monitored by the rehab team.

The first cub of 2023, #23-0529,  has continued to do well during the past week. In addition to daily bottle feeding, the one-eared cub is now eating from mush bowls that the rehab team leaves for her, and she has increased in weight to 2.86kg. The rehab team notes that the cub has been intermittently pacing in her enclosure, likely because she does not have another cub to interact with. To provide socialization until cub #23-0681 can join her in LMI, the rehab team takes time to orchestrate "supervised" playtime each day. Take a look!

Black Bear cub # 23-0681 [two ears] has been introduced to the one-eared cub for scheduled playtime, though has primarily been housed separately so that she can come inside on cold nights, due to her underweight body condition.  Additionally, on April 19, the rehabilitation team discovered swelling around the cub’s umbilicus and noted that she had diarrhea and dull mentation. The swelling was suspected to be an abscess or hematoma and the cub was treated with a combination of antibiotics, fluids, anti-nausea medication, probiotics, and lactase enzymes. The swelling reduced significantly throughout the week, however, on April 23, the rehabilitators discovered drainage around the umbilicus.

On April 24, the vet team anesthetized the cub for a closer examination and found a ruptured abscess over the umbilicus. Fortunately, only the skin was affected; underlying subcutaneous tissue and the body wall were healthy and intact. Vet staff sutured the wound closed and plan to closely monitor the site.

The cause of the abscess is unknown, but the cub’s overall condition has improved significantly. Just hours after her procedure, the rehab team reported that the cub was active, taking her bottle, and eating from her mush bowl. A recent weight check showed that her weight increased to 1.64 kg. The rehab team is currently limiting playtime with the one-eared cub to avoid any accidental damage to her wound, but hope to place them together soon.