Black Bear cub #23-0551

April 9, 2023
Rescue Location
Bedford County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Separated from mother
Former Patient
Patient photo

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On Sunday, April 9, a young Black Bear cub was found on the ground and unable to walk in Bedford County, Virginia. Karen Roberts, a local permitted wildlife rehabilitator, responded to the scene and was able to safely contain the cub that same day. After no sow was seen in the area during or after its rescue, the cub was transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia that same day – just a day after the first cub of 2023 arrived!

On presentation, the male cub was slightly lethargic but responsive to examination. Veterinary staff immediately noted that he was not using or placing any weight on his right forelimb. A physical exam revealed he was moderately dehydrated with a body condition score of 2.5/5, and weighed 2.96 kg. The cub was lightly burdened with ticks, had mild scabbing on top of his head, and pale mucus membranes.

Swelling was apparent around the right forelimb, but no skeletal abnormalities were found. Radiographs were within normal limits, but veterinary staff note that due to the young age of this cub, trauma within the elbow joint may not be visible as the bones and joints are still developing. Diagnostic testing revealed the bear to be anemic – a finding consistent with pale mucus membranes. This anemia may be related to malnutrition, underlying infection, or inflammatory disease. Full bloodwork, a skin scrape, and fecal analysis are currently pending.

The veterinary team administered fluids, anti-inflammatories, and pain medications in an effort to reduce the swelling of the cub’s elbow, and iron supplementation to combat his anemic state. The cub was placed in a Zinger crate within a secluded indoor enclosure, and care was transferred to the rehabilitation team. In addition to monitoring clinical signs and the cub’s ability to use his right forelimb, rehabilitation staff plan to bowl-feed him three times per day (which he currently seems to prefer) and offer bottle-feeding three times per day.

Until full diagnostic testing is completed, and to prevent excessive use of his forelimb, he will remain separated from Black Bear cub #23-0529 for now.

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Patient Updates

The day following his admission, Black Bear cub #23-0551 was willing to eat and move around his Zinger crate, but wildlife rehabilitator Mac noted that the cub appeared to be weaker. On the evening of April 11, hospital staff found Black Bear Cub #23-0551 seizing in his enclosure. The vet team quickly administered anti-seizure medication, but the seizures continued until the cub was anesthetized.

Many diagnostic tests, including blood work and an ultrasound, were run but did not reveal the cause of the seizures. However, given the severity of the seizures, the only remaining differentials — issues such as congenital brain issues or distemper — carried a grave prognosis. The vet team made the difficult decision to euthanize the cub to prevent him from further suffering.