Black Bear cubs of 2013

April 10, 2013
Former Patient
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In 2013, the Wildlife Center admitted a record number of Black Bear cubs from locations throughout Virginia. Some of these cubs were orphaned, some were separated from their mothers, and others were found and kept by people for a short period of time.

The bear cubs have been introduced to one another in the Center’s Bear Pen – an enclosure that was designed for adult, injured black bears. This facility is not appropriate for long-term housing of young bears. In May 2013, a larger mammal enclosure will be constructed for the bear cubs. This new enclosure, constructed near A3, will act as a short-term solution for housing these healthy bear cubs. In the future, it will be used to isolate new Black Bear cubs or yearlings, and it could also house other mammals [foxes, bobcats]. Later this summer, a Black Bear cub rearing facility will be constructed once final approval and permits are received.

When introduced into the group of bears, each cub has a small patch of fur shaved for identification purposes. The “sloth” of 2013 bear cubs include:

Black Bear #13-0389,female, left hind leg
Black Bear #13-0425, male, no mark
Black Bear #13-0450, male, left shoulder
Black Bear #13-0469, male, right hind leg
Black Bear #13-0470, male, right shoulder
Black Bear #13-0471, male, center rear end
Black Bear #13-0646, male, crown of head
Black Bear #13-0663, male, no mark
Black Bear #13-0874, female, both hind limbs
Black Bear #13-0875, female, both left legs
Black Bear #13-0876, female, both right legs
Black Bear #13-0889, female, all four limbs
Black Bear #13-0902, female, back rear end
Black Bear #13-1044, male, "T" on back
Black Bear #13-1266, male, "KT" on side
Black Bear #13-1277, female, "AD" on side
Black Bear #13-2606, female [admitted in November 2013]

In the weeks following their admissions, most of the bear cubs were bottle-fed a special formula several times a day. The rehabilitation staff worked to transition the bears to drinking their formula out of a bowl – this required less hands-on time with the young patients.

The cubs will be gradually introduced to more solid foods as they get older and gain weight – until they are on an “adult bear diet” this summer.

Watch the Bears on Critter Cam!

Read our Frequently Asked Questions about Black Bear cubs

Bears in the News

More photos of Black Bear cubs

Black Bear patients of 2013

Patient Updates

It’s time to say goodbye – the seven releasable Black Bears admitted in 2013 will be released this week!

Three of the bears from yard #2 [13-0471, #13-0874, and #13-0875] will be picked up on Wednesday morning by a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The other four bears [#13-0450, 13-0470, 13-0646, and 13-2606] will be picked up by VDGIF on Friday, April 25.

We’re excited to see these bears return to the wild – where they should be!

On April 3, officials from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries came to the Wildlife Center to assess the behavior of the bears in the Bear Complex. The three DGIF officials [including Black Bear Project Leader Jaime Sajecki], Dr. Dave, and Ed Clark approached each set of bear yearlings in the complex to see if the bears showed any interest in humans.

It appeared as though splitting up some of the bears worked quite well – none of the bears in yard #1 approached the humans, even after several minutes. Yard #2 bears were also not interested in the humans; most remained in the trees, well out of the way. When the assessment team approached yard #3, they did see signs of habituation in the two bear yearlings. Both bears were interested in the people and approached the fence and gate, although the female yearling did “startle” a little more than the male.

After additional discussion with key DGIF officials, seven of the bears were cleared for release. DGIF is currently coordinating dates for pick-up and release of the bears later this month. Bears #13-0450, 13-0470, 13-0646, 13-2606, 13-0471, 13-0874, and 13-0875 will be released in two groups.

At this point, the two bears in yard #3 will not be released. The plan for these two bears is still under discussion.

Over the course of last week, workers from Kjellstrom & Lee were able to secure the last of the black “anti-climbing” plastic to yard #3, making it ready to house bears. On Monday, March 30, the veterinary team decided to dart two Black Bears in yard #1 of the Black Bear Complex, and move them to yard #3. The team decided that breaking up the group of five bears that seem less wary of humans might help break some bad habits, and might also allow the staff to assess if one or two of the bears were the main “instigators”. The move went well.

The current line-up in the Bear Complex is:

Yard #1:
#13-0450, male
#13-0470, male
#13-0646, male
#13-2606, female

Yard #2:
#13-0471, male
#13-0874, female
#13-0875, female
#14-0018, female
#14-0126, female
#14-0142, female
#14-0184, female

Yard #3:
#13-0663, male
#13-0876, female

Some of the bears are responding to the hazing, and appear to be more cautious when humans are present. The staff will continue to work with officials from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on assessing the bears and planning for releases.

The veterinary team was able to successfully dart and tag four Black Bears in yard #1 today. Five bears were enclosed in transition area #1 for darting; the female bear that was released and returned in January was not successfully darted. All four of the darted bears were males and were able to be identified via microchip: #14-0450, #14-0470, #13-0646, and #13-0663. The bears appeared to be in good body condition. All have been doing well living off of their fat stores, as wild bears do in the winter time. Weights ranged from 38.5 kg to 50 kg.

Bear #13-2606, one of the smaller bears in yard #1, is still readily identifiable just by size and appearance; she did not want to come down from a tree.

The rehabilitation staff attempted to lure bears in yard #2 into the transition area, but none showed any interest. The team decided not to pursue darting these bears at this time.

After the bears were safely contained in the transition area and the reversal process began to wake them up, the staff quickly went into yard #1 to cast and hide food – mostly nuts, seeds, and a small amount of fruit. Food was placed in the transition area #2 for the other group of bears.

After assessing the behavior of the larger five bears in yard #1, the team will initiate a more aggressive hazing plan. The staff wants to ensure that the bears are not interested in people, and wants to see an increased wariness before officials from DGIF come to assess the bears in April.

Placing ear tags:

Casting/hiding food:

On the first day of spring, the veterinary team met to discuss plans for the Black Bears at the Wildlife Center. With the change in season, it is time to start thinking about next steps!

On March 21, Drs. Dave, Rich, and Kristin will attempt to dart as many of the 10 bears in the Bear Complex as possible. Because the bears were moved to the Complex in January before the Center received ear tags, most of the bears are not able to be readily identified from one another. Once the bears are anesthetized today, the team will ear tag the bears and will conduct a physical examination, including a springtime weight check.

At the same time, the rehabilitation staff will haul food to the Bear Complex and will scatter the food throughout the two yards. Rehabilitators Kelli and Amber will be providing about a week’s worth of food for the bears, so that the staff can minimize human contact.

In April, several officials with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will come to the Center to meet with the staff and assess the bears. Because one released bear returned to the Center in January after displaying an interest in humans, DGIF and the Center staff will need to assess the behavior of the bears before planning the release. While the bears in yard #2 have been denning most of this winter and have not shown much interest in humans, several bears in yard #1 behave differently.

Rehabilitators Kelli and Amber were able to successfully lure five bears in yard #1 into the transition area for today’s darting. The veterinary team will decide how to best approach the remaining bears in both yards.

During the past few weeks, the staff have noted a variety of behaviors with some of the Black Bear yearlings at the Center. As many Critter Cam viewers can attest, five of the yearlings have remained fairly active in yard #1 of the Black Bear Complex. These five bears are also ones that continue to show the most interest in humans when the rehabilitation staff conduct weekly perimeter checks of the Black Bear Complex. Hazing continues during these periodic checks; the staff want to ensure that these bears do not approach humans after they are released.

Yearling #13-2606 is typically more quiet than her “roommates” in yard #1. The staff have been pleased to see that the three yearlings in yard #2 have denned; none has been active since the heavy snowfall that Waynesboro received on February 19.

On the evening of January 29, the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and the Wildlife Center of Virginia received word that a bear yearling with ear tags was in a residential area. The homes were not far from the January 24 release site of five bears – and people were feeding and making physical contact with the bear. A biologist and conservation officer, from the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries and local police deputies responded to the scene to dart and capture the bear; they confirmed that this yearling was one of the bears in the January 24 release group. The female bear was returned to the Center on January 30.

Over the months that the bears have been at the Center, the staff have seen a difference in personalities and attitudes of the bears. Some bears, like #13-1277, wanted nothing to do with people and were anxious to be out of the bear enclosures. Some bears were not as concerned in the presence of humans. Because of the large number of cubs in care in 2013, and limited housing options until January 2014, some bears appear to be more habituated than others.

DGIF and the Wildlife Center have decided to temporarily suspend releasing the remaining bears. The eight remaining bears, along with the returned female, will stay in the Center’s Bear Complex for several more months. The staff will greatly reduce human contact, and will offer very little food, to encourage the bears to den. The staff will also likely haze the bears if the animals pay too much attention to people when staff does need to approach the Bear Complex – this will provide the bears with a negative association with humans.

Monday’s bear release went well – the biologists report that the release was uneventful, and all of the bears ran off in an excited group – except for one who wanted to stop and sniff everything. The release location is in a great bear habitat, with lots of large den trees and other natural den structures. The remote location is also a place where food is typically abundant in the spring and summer.

The next bear release [of four bears] will be on Thursday, January 30.

On January 25, one of the Black Bears in transition #1 tested the double-door system of the Black Bear Complex – she managed to escape out of the transition area, into the wide corridor which is surrounded by the perimeter fence. The bear was noticed in the outer corridor from the Critter Cam in the Center’s lobby. A quick head count confirmed that a bear was missing from transition area #1.

Dr. Kristin and rehabilitation intern Kelsey prepared darting equipment and went up to the Bear Complex. Dr. Kristin was able to dart the bear from outside of the perimeter fence – the bear quickly ran away after darting. The female bear was scanned with a microchip reader, but no results were revealed. By the bear’s appearance and size, Dr. Kristin thinks that this bear could be #13-0389. Dr. Kristin placed ear tags in both of the bear’s ears, and placed the anesthetized bear in transition area #2. The bear woke up without complications.

Dr. Kristin and Kelsey inspected the Bear Complex, but were not able to determine how the bear got out of transition area #1. At this point, there are many human footprints and Polaris tracks in the snow – along with some bear tracks. They were not able to tell where the bear tracks started. The team will keep a close eye on cameras throughout the rest of the weekend.

This afternoon, the Wildlife Center team managed to shift five bears from Black Bear Complex yard #2 into the adjoining transition area, and six bears from yard #1 into the adjoining transition area. One of the biologists scheduled to come tomorrow may reschedule for next week. The other DGIF biologist will be arriving at the Center just after 9:00 a.m., and has a large trap – he may take five or more bears, depending on size. Stay tuned for updates on Friday, January 24, as to which bears have been released!

Ear tags for the 17 Black Bears arrived at the Wildlife Center today. With those in hand, the releases will begin on Friday, January 24.

The Wildlife Center team will be shifting several bears from each yard into the two transition areas today. Two biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will arrive on Friday to pick up two groups of Black Bears. The number of bears in each release group won’t be known until the bears are darted and anesthetized tomorrow, but the we expect that about eight or so bears will be released. The biologists will transport the bears to two remote locations in the western half of Virginia.

The rest of the bears will be released during the week of January 27. At this point, two more biologists are tentatively planning on a January 27 pick-up. Stay tuned for more release details as we learn them!

The 17 Black Bears have been doing well during the first week of living in the new Black Bear Complex. Dr. Dave McRuer and DGIF Black Bear Project Leader Jaime Sajecki have been formulating a release plan for the bears. Because several small groups of bears will be released by several different biologists, there is a lot of coordination involved.

The staff and DGIF biologists will be ear-tagging the bears prior to release. The eartags have been ordered, and once they arrive, releases will be scheduled. This means that bears could be released as early as January 23 or 24, or anytime during the week of January 27.

Five DGIF biologists, including Jaime, will be involved with the releases of the 17 bears. We anticipate that there will be several release days, based on the biologists’ availability, and the ability of the Wildlife Center staff to successfully shift an appropriate number of bears. Each biologist will pick up three to four bears and will release each group in a different location. All release locations are in remote areas of the western half of the state.

Once the Wildlife Center staff have a more firm release schedule, several bears will be shifted into the transition area of each bear enclosure. Depending on when the bears will be picked up, the bears may live in the transition area for a day or two, to ensure that they are in the correct location for darting. Stay tuned for more information as we learn it!

Views from the Critter Cam on the morning of January 10 revealed at least nine bear cubs in trees in the new Black Bear Complex. The cubs appear to be settling in and enjoying their new space in the large bear yards.

The rehabilitation staff will feed the bears early this afternoon. The cubs will be fed once a day, likely in the early afternoon each day. The rehabilitation staff will provide food in the transition areas of each bear yard. The feeding strategy will likely change for future cub seasons, but because these cubs will be released this month, the staff want to ensure that the cubs get used to coming down into the transition areas (where they will be darted on release day). If no cubs are in the transition areas during feeding time, the staff will be able to go into the space to leave food; if the cubs are present, the staff will be throwing brown paper bags of food over the 10-foot fences into the transition area.

Certified wildlife rehabilitators Kelli and Amber will also be making a daily check-list for the new Bear Complex. Their daily visits will include an overall check of the perimeter fence, a check on all of the locks leading into the enclosures, and a bear nose-count.

On the morning of January 9, the Wildlife Center team began the second day of moving bears to the new Black Bear Complex. Both sets of bears that were moved yesterday into the transition areas were shifted into the large Bear Complex yards for the first time. After several minutes of hesitation, all bears slowly walked into their new half-acre area. Within minutes, bears #13-1266 and #13-0889 in yard #2 were climbing trees. Once the transition areas were cleared, the connecting gates were closed, and the team was able to proceed with the rest of the move.

Three bears were shifted into the connecting chute of the Large Mammal enclosure. Drs. Rich, Kristin, and Kelli successfully darted the three; microchip scans revealed that one of the male bears is #13-1044, the other darted male is #13-0425. The third bear darted was a female, and the staff were not able to locate a microchip. The three bears were loaded into the Center’s Polaris Ranger as well as veterinary extern Katelin’s truck and were taken to the transition area of the second Bear Complex enclosure.

Once those three bears were settled and beginning to wake up, the veterinarians returned to the Large Mammal enclosure to dart more bears. Three bears were successfully shifted into the connecting chute – and one lone bear remained in the right half of the Large Mammal enclosure. After the three bears in the chute were darted, Dr. Rich carefully took aim, and quickly managed to dart the lone bear in Large Mammal enclosure #2.

All four bears were carefully removed, weighed, and loaded into the truck for transport to the transition area of enclosure #1. This round of bears included #13-2606, #13-0646, and two unidentified females. As the veterinary team performed a physical examination of one of the bears in the truck, they noted that the dart was embedded in the cub’s scapula. Dr. Rich performed a bit of “field surgery” and was able to remove the tip of the dart after making an incision in the cub’s shoulder. Dr. Kristin injected a long-acting antibiotic and sutured the wound with absorbable suture. All four cubs recovered successfully.

Following lunch, the team was able to successfully shift cubs to yards #1 and #2 from the respective transition areas. They prepared to move the remaining six cubs.

Three bears were again shifted into the connecting chute in the Large Mammal Isolation and were successfully darted. The three bears were carefully removed, weighed, and transported to the transition area of enclosure #1 for a physical exam.

The three cubs are being monitored and appear to be recovering well.

The team returned to the Large Mammal Isolation to dart the remaining three bear cubs.

At the end of the move, the bear line-up is as follows:

Microchip information was unavailable for five of the female bears:


Photos from Moving Day II:

Black Bear Complex Moving Day II

The Wildlife Center veterinary team successfully moved four bear cubs to the new Black Bear Complex today.

When certified wildlife rehabilitators Kelli and Amber arrived at work this morning, they were able to enclose two cubs in the connecting chute in the Large Mammal enclosure. Two other cubs were enclosed in Large Mammal enclosure #1.

At about 10:00 a.m., Drs. Rich and Kristin darted the first two cubs in the connecting chute. Within a half hour, the cubs were successfully anesthetized and pulled out of the large mammal enclosure for weights.

The team had some difficulty reading the microchip scanning device, but were able to piece together enough numbers on the machine to indentify the bears. The first bear pulled out of the chute was determined to be #13-0450, a male. The cub weighed in at 55.1 kg – 121 pounds! The cub was loaded onto the back of the Polaris Ranger and was moved to the first transition area.

As soon as #13-0450 was loaded, the next anesthetized cub was retrieved. #13-0470, a male, weighed in at 62.8 kg. Drs. Rich, Kristin, and veterinary externs Ernesto and Katelin carried the cub to the new Bear Complex on a stretcher.

Both cubs received physical examinations and a prophylactic injection of medication to treat for parasites. A blood sample was also taken. The two cubs appear to be in great condition and have a thick coat of glossy fur. Drs. Rich and Kristin reversed the anesthesia with an injection and the team quickly left the enclosure.

The next two bears were quickly shifted into the connecting chute of the Large Mammal enclosure and were darted at about 11:00 a.m. Both bears in the second set showed signs of hair loss; Kelli and Amber noted that these two bears are generally a little more nervous and aloof. The microchip scanner revealed that the larger of the two cubs, a male, was #13-1266. He weighed in at 62.8 kg. The second cub, a female, is likely #13-0889. She weighed in at 42.5 kg.

Both #13-1266 and #13-0889 were successfully moved to the transition area of enclosure #2; #13-1266 rode in the Polaris ranger, while Drs. Kristin and Rich carried #13-0889 by stretcher. During the physical examination process, diagnostic intern Kelli took skin scrapings of both of the cubs; she immediately returned to the Center’s lab to look at the samples under a microscope. No parasites were identified. While mites are still a possibility, the hair loss could also be “environmental” – rubbing or scratching in their enclosure, or a sensitivity to the straw.

The staff is pleased with how smoothly the first four bears transitioned today. The four cubs are currently exploring their new areas and can be seen on the Center’s Critter Cams.

Additional bears will be moved tomorrow, January 9. The team will aim to get an earlier start in the morning [about 8:30 a.m.]. If all goes well, the bears that were darted and moved today will be released into the main “yard” area of enclosures 1 and 2. Drs. Rich and Kristin plan on attempting to dart two groups of three cubs each tomorrow morning; three will be placed in the transition area of enclosure #1, and three into the transition area of #2. Stay tuned!

Check out the photos from Moving Day I!

Black Bear Complex Move I

On Monday January 6, the Kjellstrom & Lee work crew put the finishing touches on Bear Complex enclosures #1 and #2. The Wildlife Center team plans on moving bear cubs on January 8.

The process of moving the cubs will take several days. Four cubs will be moved on the first day — two cubs in each transition area of enclosures 1 and 2.

In the morning, certified wildlife rehabilitators Kelli and Amber will start the process by attempting to shift one or two bears into the connecting chute of the Large Mammal enclosure. This confined area will allow Drs. Rich and Kristin to dart the cubs after morning treatments. Dr. Rich hopes to begin darting at about 9:30 a.m. Once the cubs are darted and fully anesthetized, Drs. Rich and Kristen will pull the cub(s) out of the chute and will conduct physical examinations. The exam will include: scanning for microchips (embedded in the cubs in the summer), weights, and a skin-scraping to check for any parasites.

Once a cub is finished with its physical examination, it will be loaded into the back of the Polaris Ranger. Amber will drive the Ranger, while Kelli follows behind on foot to monitor the cub in transit. They’ll transport the cub to the first enclosure in the Bear Complex, and will carry the bear into the transition area. The two rehabbers will immediately return to the Large Mammal enclosure to pick up the next anesthetized cub. Dr. Dave, licensed veterinary technician Leigh-Ann, and diagnostic intern Kelli will be at the Bear Complex to begin the reversal process. The cubs will receive an injection that will reverse the anesthesia. The team will monitor the cubs from the entrance corridor after the injection is given, as well as via internal Critter Cam.

The four cubs will test out the two transition areas for the next 24 hours. If all appears to be going well, they will be shifted into the main yard portion of each enclosure on Thursday. At that point, additional cubs will be darted and moved to the two transition areas.

The cub anesthesia, moving, and wake-up will not be streamed live via Critter Cam — but tune in on the morning of January 8 for a play-by-play on the moderated discussion!  Once the bears are awake and settled, we’ll resume Critter Cam feed.

Click here for a tour of the Black Bear Complex.

Construction on the Bear Complex continues during the week of December 30. Dr. Dave has been inspecting the nearly-complete facility daily, and after talking with the Kjellstrom & Lee team, he anticipates that the complex should be bear-ready after a few more days of work, if the weather holds.

At this point, several of the gates in the enclosures need to be fine-tuned to prevent bears from slipping through small gaps in the gate. Two concrete pads need to be poured under two gates in the perimeter fence on Thursday, January 2. Nearly all other work has been finished at this point, and Dr. Dave has walked through the enclosures with a critical eye, in preparation of moving bears. The staff hope to move bears next week. No firm release date has been set yet, but Dr. Dave has been started to discuss plans with Jaime Sajecki, the DGIF Black Bear Project Leader. Release will be sometime in mid-January.

Work continues on the Black Bear Complex; the crew estimates that work should be complete sometime during the week of December 16 [barring any additional weather delays]. The staff hopes to move a first group of four bears as soon as the complex is complete.

On Tuesday, December 17, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, the Wildlife Center will hold a formal dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, the Secretary of Natural Resources and other public officials, Center board members, and other partners and supporters. The event is not open to the public; we will provide event coverage through our website.

The 17 Black Bear cubs are growing bigger by the day! All cubs are doing well, including the newest and smallest addition, #13-2606.

Recently, News Leader photographer Mike Tripp spent a day at the Wildlife Center. Mike spent time with the rehabilitation staff as they cared for a variety of patients, and prepared feature video on "a day with the bears".

As the Black Bear Complex nears completion, the staff will soon be formulating a plan to move the bear cubs to the new facility. The construction crew will be working hard during the week of December 2. The staff should have a better idea at the end of the week of when the complex will be completed.

The 16 Black Bear cubs residing in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure at the Wildlife Center are all doing well. As many Critter Cam watchers can attest, the cubs have been growing over the past few months, and these days look quite large! The staff are excited to move the cubs into the soon-to-be-completed Black Bear Complex sometime in the next month.

The rehabilitation staff continue to work hard caring for all of the cubs – the bears are still receiving 12 large buckets of food each day (split into three feedings). The rehabilitation staff and students clean one side of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure each day – no easy feat! As they are cleaning, the staff work in some sort of enrichment for the bears, which usually involves food. Last week, for example, the bears received several melons on a rope – which occupied their time [for nearly nine minutes].



This week, the bears are receiving a special treat – fire-hose hammocks! Fire-hose hammocks are used at a variety of zoos — the hammocks are quite tough and are very strong. The Center received some used fire hose from the Forest Service, and the raw materials were passed off to two Girl Scouts in Troop 602. Scouts Elizabeth and Meredith assembled two hammocks and brought them to the Center’s October 13 open house. The staff are very excited to put these new enrichment items to use!

Scouts Elizabeth and Meredith in action:

The finished products (and a little leftover!)  Thanks to Cheryl K for these photos!

A student tests a hammock:

And then Kelli tries it out:

Nice position from which to supervise!

In action!


The connecting chute between Large Mammal enclosure #1 and #2 was opened on the afternoon of August 2. The two groups of eight bears very quickly mingled into one giant group of 16 cubs – all is going well!

The remaining eight cubs in the Center’s Bear Pen were successfully darted and sedated for the big move today. Dr. Rich and Dr. Kristin darted the cubs, one or two at a time, and were able to examine and weigh four of them prior to loading them into crates for the move. The cubs were scanned to detect and read their microchips – the system worked great for the sedated cubs. Four of the cubs weren’t fully asleep, and the staff quickly loaded them directly into a crate for the move.

The identifiable cubs with weights include:

#13-0425: male: 12.1 kg
#13-0646: male: 13.0 kg
#13-1044: male: 6.34 kg
#13-1266: male: 7.2 kg

Two more partially-awake cubs were weighed though were not able to be identified with the microchip scanner. These included a female of 10.1 kgs, and another female cub of 10.3 kg.

At the Large Mammal Isolation Enclosure, the sedated cubs were placed into the connecting chute and were “reversed” [given an injection of medication to wake them up] by veterinary technician Leigh-Ann. Once the cubs were awake, the door was opened into Large Mammal enclosure #1.

The staff will open the door to adjoining enclosure on Friday, August 2, and all 16 bear cubs will co-mingle. The staff expects to see some minor scuffling at first, though all the cubs are quite familiar with seeing and hearing one another. One reason why the staff feeds the cubs three times a day is to ensure there is a continuous supply of food for all.

A remarkable comparison — this is a photo of cub #13-0425: then, and now!

Another comparison, of #13-0646:

Photos from Moving Day II:

Black Bear Cub Moving II

It’s been nearly a week since eight of the Black Bear cubs were moved into the newly completed Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. The staff have made some adjustments to the enclosure – extending the privacy barrier in hopes of reducing the pacing of one bear cub, and eliminating the "anti-climbing" boards. One cub does have some minor paw injuries from too much climbing – the veterinary team is monitoring the cub, but believe that the injury may be self-limiting – if the bear cub’s paws are sore, the cub will stop climbing and its paws will heal.

Otherwise, by all accounts, the bears are doing well – they are enjoying their three feedings a day and are often seen, via Critter Cam, romping in the two water troughs in both sides of the enclosure. The staff is able to top off water each day during one of the three feedings. The staff don’t yet have a schedule for cleaning—they are observing the enclosure and determining how often an enclosure needs to be cleaned.

On August 1, the remaining eight bear cubs will be moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. The team will begin preparing for the move at 8:30 a.m.; the moving will likely take several hours to ensure the cubs are fully awake before they are moved out of the small connecting tunnel and placed in one of the enclosures. While the goal is to mingle all 16 bear cubs together, at first, the smaller cubs will be separated in Large Mammal enclosure #1 until the staff are sure they are fully awake and recovered from the sedation.

It’s moving day!

After the completion of the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure on July 24, eight bear cubs [from Bear Pen 1] were moved today. The veterinary team started early this morning to gather their supplies for the big bear move. The staff and students split into two teams: the “sedation team” and the “recovery team”.

The sedation team consisted of Dr. Rich, Dr. Kristin, visiting veterinarian Dr. Brandon, wildlife rehabilitation intern Jess, and students Jess and Nia. The eight larger cubs were shut into the den of Bear Pen 1 three or four at a time, while the veterinarians sedated the cubs with a pole syringe. Once sedated, the cubs were pulled out of the den into the main enclosure, and then out of the bear pen. Four cubs were weighed; some cubs were not fully sedate, and the team opted to quickly move them rather than risking more time for the cubs to wake up. All appeared to be in great condition. Weights for the four cubs ranged from 18 kg to 21 kg.

The cubs were then loaded into crates and zinger enclosures into the back of a pick-up truck, and Dr. Dave and Amber escorted the cubs over to the new enclosure. Veterinary technician Leigh-Ann Horne headed up the “recovery team”; she was assisted by students Sara and Jess. Three of the mostly awake cubs were placed directly into Large Mammal enclosure #1; the other cubs were placed into the connecting “tunnel” so that Leigh-Ann could inject them with a reversal drug to wake them up.

After three rounds of bear cub shuffling, all eight cubs from Bear Pen 1 were safely in the new enclosure.

As the bears settled in, the team discovered that the cubs could fairly easily climb over the two-foot wide “anti-climbing board”, but they were having difficulty climbing back down. Rather than adding more boards, which would reduce light and air flow, Dr. Dave decided to have the work crew remove the boards entirely. While this will allow the bears to climb, given the height of the pen and the straw below, this is still a safe area for them. Additional boards will be placed around both webcams in the enclosures to prevent the cubs from disturbing the Critter Cams.

The smaller bear cubs from Bear Pen 2 will likely be moved during the week of July 29. This will allow the staff to watch the eight cubs in the new facility for several days – and see if any other modifications need to be made.

Take the tour of "Phase I" Large Mammal Isolation Enclosure:

*Note that the boards are no longer in place in these enclosures.

Cam views of both sides of the enclosure:


Large Mammal ISO enclosure #1


Check out the photos from the big "Bear Move"!

Black Bear Cub Moving

Work is nearly complete on the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure; just a few odds and ends remain to make the pen entirely ready for the bear cubs. The pen has been wired and set-up with cam cable; the team will be working on positioning cameras on Wednesday, July 24.

If all goes well, bear cubs will be moved to their new home on Thursday, July 25! The team will likely start early in the morning; all bears will need to be darted and sedated prior to handling and moving. The cubs will be weighed at that time.

Work continues on the large Black Bear cub complex; the Center hopes to complete the two-acre facility later this fall.


All 16 Black Bear cubs are doing well in the Center’s bear pens. The rehabilitation staff clean the two pens frequently, and are looking forward to moving the cubs into a bigger space! The large mammal isolation enclosure construction is coming along well; the enclosure should be completed within the next two weeks. Once the enclosure is finished, the plan is to move all of the cubs to that new facility – at least for now. All cubs will need to be darted, sedated, and weighed prior to moving.

Webcams will be moved into the new large mammal enclosure – and we will need to experiment with Critter Cams in this new set-up with different dimensions. During the week of July 15, both webcams will be removed from the current Bear Pens so that Kurt, the Center’s IT guru, can have enough time to experiment in the new mammal enclosure. This means that bear cams may be off-line for a week or so during the transition … but we look forward to live bear-cub coverage once they are moved to their new, bigger, more open enclosure!

Still no sign of the escapee bear cub as of Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. The staff and students combed the woods today in hopes of spotting the bear, but there are a variety of hiding places in the leafy trees surrounding the Center. The staff set-up a live trap as well as a game-cam; hopefully tomorrow will bring additional cub sightings and updates.

Several vet staff members caught up the cubs in Bear Pen 2 today for weighing and microchipping. All cubs were sedated first – at this point, they are too large to handle safely without sedation. By process of elimination, the staff determined that the escapee cub is Black Bear cub #13-1266.

All cubs are gaining weight and thriving.

Bear Pen 2 cubs:

#13-0425: 7.0 kg
#13-0646: 7.16 kg
#13-0875: 7.86 kg
#13-0889: 5.70 kg
#13-0902: 7.90 kg
#13-1044: 5.56 kg
#13-1277: 5.88 kg

On Monday, June 17, staff rehabilitators Kelli and Amber entered Bear Pen 2. As they were entering, one of the cubs that was hiding beside the door managed to slip past them and out of the bear pen. The young cub promptly climbed a tree.

The staff attempted for several hours to retrieve the bear – and a student was posted on “bear watch” for the rest of the evening. While the bear appeared to be climbing down the tree at one point during the afternoon, it quickly changed its mind and climbed higher. Two cubs from Bear Pen 2 were placed in a large sturdy enclosure in the main area of the bear pen while the other cubs were locked in the den – the staff hoped that the sound of the cubs and smelly, scattered food in the pen would lure the little escapee out of the tree. By the end of the day, the cub was still in the tree.

Wildlife rehabilitator Amber arrived at the Center bright and early Tuesday morning to quietly walk up to the bear pen to check on the cub, which apparently had climbed down from the tree during the night or early morning. There was no sign of the cub in the immediate area. An additional search will be conducted by the staff later this morning. In the meantime, a student picked up large mammal traps from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; the traps will be baited with food and left in the woods near the bear pens.

The staff aren’t sure which cub managed to slip out of the bear pen; they will be doing a cub round-up later today for weights and microchipping, and will determine which cub is missing. The work crew at the Center was diverted this morning from the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure to erect a temporary double-door system onto the Center’s bear pen. This should prevent future escapes of the increasingly more wild cubs.

On Saturday, June 8, the rehabilitation staff and students weighed the cubs in Bear Pen 2, and did some “rearranging”. Black Bear cubs #13-1266 and 1277, the siblings from Tazewell County, were from inside the clinic and introduced to the cubs in Bear Pen 2. The two largest cubs in Bear Pen 2, #13-0874 and #13-0876, were moved next door to Bear Pen 1. This means the 16 cubs are split evenly into groups of eight, with the larger cubs in Bear Pen 1.

The latest weights:

Bear Pen 1 additions:
#13-0874: 8.20 kg
#13-0876: 9.33 kg

Bear Pen 2 cubs:
#13-0425: 6.35 kg
#13-0646: 6.37 kg
#13-0875: 6.87 kg
#13-0889: 5.31 kg
#13-0902: 6.82 kg
#13-1044: 5.52 kg
#13-1266: 4.07 kg
#13-1277: 5.18 kg

The only cub that is still on a single formula feeding a day is bear cub #13-1266. This shy male lost a little weight; rehabilitator Kelli reports that he has not been eating  his formula, but is eating a more grown-up bear meal. Rehabilitators will closely monitor the smallest cub and hope that being housed with fellow bear cubs will encourage him to continue to eat.

At this point, the staff will no longer weigh Bear Pen 1 cubs, unless the cubs are sedated. All cubs appear to be eating well and gaining weight. The Bear Pen 2 cubs will likely only have one or two more weigh days until it is no longer safe to handle them while they are awake.

The Bear Pen 2 Black Bear cubs were weighed on Wednesday, June 5. With the latest weight gains, three more cubs were cut-off from formula feedings; that means only the smallest two cubs in Bear Pen 2 are being fed formula once a day.

The current weights:

#13-0425: 5.60 kg
#13-0646: 5.60 kg
#13-0874: 7.60 kg
#13-0875: 6.30 kg
#13-0876: 8.60 kg
#13-0889: 4.60 kg
#13-0902: 5.90 kg
#13-1044: 4.30 kg

The rehabilitation staff have not yet finalized a housing plan for the two newest bears. One idea is to move the two largest cubs from Bear Pen 2 into Bear Pen 1, then move the two newest cubs (currently housed inside the Center) into Bear Pen 2. This would evenly split the 16 cubs into two groups of eight.

All 14 Black Bear cubs continue to thrive at the Wildlife Center. The eight smaller cubs were weighed on Sunday, June 2:

#13-0425: 4.46 kg
#13-0646: 5.10 kg
#13-0874: 7.23 kg
#13-0875: 6.00 kg
#13-0876: 7.50 kg
#13-0889: 3.91 kg
#13-0902: 5.20 kg
#13-1044: 2.92 kg

The rehabilitation staff cut off the three largest cubs in this enclosure from formula feedings; the five smaller cubs are currently receiving just one formula feeding a day. The BP2 group is also receiving several "mush bowls" after their morning feeding. All bears (in Bear Pens 1 and 2) are receiving an adult bear meal through the pens’ food chutes three times a day.

On May 31, the six bear cubs in Flight Pen 1 were moved to Bear Pen 1. This was no simple move – the feisty bears needed to be weighed and re-marked prior to moving. The veterinary team decided the safest way to do this would be to sedate the bear cubs first, since they are becoming increasingly dangerous to handle!

Dr. Rich, rehabilitator Amber, and intern Niki managed the bear round-up.  After the bears were sedated, they were microchipped. This means of identification will be useful for future hands-on interactions when the bears are sedated. Scanning the microchips will enable the staff to definitively identify each cub; while the shaved areas on the bears are helpful for identifying the bears from a distance,  the hair on the cubs will soon grow back. [The funds for the purchase of this new microchip system were raised through the recent sales of the “I Saved a Black Bear Cub’s Life” shirts. Thank you!]

The new weights of the cubs are:

#13-0389: 7.48 kg
#13-0450: 7.82 kg
#13-0469: 9.10 kg
#13-0470: 9.01 kg
#13-0471: 7.98 kg
#13-0663: 8.81 kg

Only one of the six cubs lost weight – likely from the recent transition to an “adult” bear meal. Black Bear cub #13-0450 is still in great body condition, and the staff are not concerned.

The cubs are currently receiving two meals each day, which will be delivered through the food chute in the Bear Pen. This meal includes dog food, a variety of seeds, veggies, fruits, nuts, insects, and fish.

Watch for the Bear Pen 1 cubs on Critter Cam!

Video update

This GoPro video was filmed on May 23. The cubs featured in this video are the "Flight Pen 1 cubs" — the six larger cubs residing at the Wildlife Center.

After the May 25 departure of the Syrian Brown Bear cub, the rehabilitation staff and students thoroughly disinfected Bear Pen 2. On May 26, the “Flight Pen 2 bears” — the smaller cubs — were moved to Bear Pen 2. Black Bear cubs #13-0889 and #13-1044 were also placed in Bear Pen 2 — both are now drinking formula twice a day. That means the eight cubs in Bear Pen 2 include:

#13-0425: 4.06 kg
#13-0646: 3.60 kg
#13-0874: 5.65 kg
#13-0875: 4.23 kg
#13-0876: 6.25 kg
#13-0889: 3.30 kg
#13-0902: 4.26 kg
#13-1044: 2.80 kg

Most of the cubs in this group are now drinking formula just once a day – in the morning. The two newest cubs receive an additional formula feeding in the afternoon. The cubs are eating their “adult bear diet” quite well. This meal includes hard dog food, veggies, fruits, seeds, and small pieces of fish. These cubs are currently featured during the day on the Center’s Critter Cam.

The Flight Pen 1 bears – the larger group of cubs – were increasingly difficult to feed last week. While the cubs were interested in the formula, they were not interested in being handled by humans. On Thursday, May 23, the cubs were cut back to just one formula feeding per day. When Sunday’s weigh-in showed that the cubs were all continuing to gain weight, the rehabilitation staff gave them their last formula feeding. The cubs are eating an adult bear diet. The Flight Pen 1 group’s latest weights include:

#13-0389: 6.49 kg
#13-0450: 8.50 kg
#13-0469: 8.50 kg
#13-0470: 8.50 kg
#13-0471: 7.03 kg
#13-0663: 7.86 kg

On Thursday May 23, wildlife rehabilitation externship students Piero and Rachel took the GoPro camera into Flight Pen 2 with the six smaller bear cubs. Here’s what the latest feedings look like:

The eight bear cubs housed in Bear Pen 1 were moved today to Flight Pen 1 – to make room for Black Bear yearling #13-0977.  To help manage the “bear chaos”, certified wildlife rehabilitator Kelli moved two of the cubs in with the FP2 bear cubs. This means that the cubs are currently split into two groups of six – based on size.

FP1 cubs:

#13-0389 – 6.15 kg
#13-0469 -  8.1 kg
#13-0470 -  7.7 kg
#13-0471 – 6.62 kg
#13-0450 – 8.0 kg
#13-0663 -  7.0 kg

FP2 cubs:

#13-0646 – 3.6 kg
#13-0425 – 3.61 kg
#13-0902 – 3.72 kg
#13-0876 – 5.6 kg
#13-0875 — 4.0 kg
#13-0874 – 4.9 kg

As soon as Syrian Brown Bear cub #13-0335 is flown to her new home in Texas, one group of bears will be moved back into the Bear Pens. There are no cams currently set-up in the Flight Pen 1-3 complex, but we anticipate (and hope for) a quick transport of the Syrian Brown Bear.

The two groups of Black Bear cubs at the Wildlife Center – consisting of 12 healthy cubs that are living outdoors – are all doing well. Sunday’s weigh-in revealed that all are gaining weight – and some are getting quite large!

Bear Pen 1 group

#13-0389: 5.80 kg
#13-0425: 3.40 kg
#13-0450: 8.20 kg
#13-0469: 7.90 kg
#13-0470: 7.20 kg
#13-0471: 6.00 kg
#13-0646: 3.80 kg
#13-0663: 7.00 kg

Flight Pen 2 group

#13-0874: 4.38 kg
#13-0875: 3.20 kg
#13-0876: 4.89 kg
#13-0902: 3.35 kg

The rehabilitation staff and students are currently offering formula to these bears twice a day. In addition to the formula, the bears are eating more and more adult foods – a mixture of dry dog food, fruits, and soft vegetables. No more "mush bowls" are being offered.

On Wednesday, May 22, the eight cubs in Bear Pen 1 will temporarily become the “Flight Pen 1” bears – they will be moved to one of the Center’s flight pens with underground fencing. This move is necessary to make room for Black Bear yearling #13-0977 – a recent admission. Once Syrian Brown Bear #13-0335 is flown to her new home in Texas, the group of eight cubs will be moved back to the Bear pens … until the Large Mammal Isolation facility is complete. That’s a lot of bear moving for the rehab staff!

The eight Black Bear cubs in Bear Pen 1 are doing well – they continue to thrive. Kelli, one of the Center’s certified wildlife rehabilitators, wore the GoPro cam on May 14 for the afternoon bear feeding. Those who watched the first GoPro video will see quite a difference in the cubs’ behaviors – they are getting bigger, and more wild!

The feeding process is still the same – each bear receives a certain amount of formula, calculated from its weight. This means that the bear feeders need to contain the bears, identify the one they are about to feed, quickly measure the formula for that particular bear, and then monitor the bear as it eats. Depending on the set-up, the staff or students may be able to feed two at once – those this is increasingly difficult due to the bears!

The eight Black Bear cubs residing at the Wildlife Center are doing well – all are eating and gaining weight. The bears had a bi-weekly weigh-in on Sunday, May 12:

#13-0389: 4.90 kg
#13-0435: 2.60 kg
#13-0450: 5.70 kg
#13-0469: 6.70 kg
#13-0470: 6.50 kg
#13-0471: 4.90 kg
#13-0646: 2.70 kg
#13-0663: 5.50 kg

Wildlife rehabilitator Amber reports that all bears are on a twice-a-day formula feeding schedule now – typically the first feeding occurs around 8:30 a.m.; the second feeding is generally between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.   At feeding time, staff or students serve each bear cub a measured amount of formula [calculated for the bear’s weight] out of a bowl. The bears are also given a “mush bowls” after each feeding – these supplemental meals consist of thickened formula poured over soaked dry dog food. The mush bowls are topped with baby food and small pieces of fruit.

On May 7, Black Bear cub #13-0663 was cleared to move to Bear Pen 1 with the other seven cubs. This newest bear will be enclosed in a crate in the bear pen as a means of introduction – within a couple of days, the bear cub will be allowed to mingle with its new brothers and sister. The cub currently weighs 4.40 kgs. The staff and students are currently bottle-feeding the bear twice a day; they are working on transitioning the bear to drinking formula from a bowl.

On May 5, the rehabilitation staff re-calculated the amount of formula for each bear cub based off of the latest weigh-in results. The most current weights are:

Black Bear #13-0389: 3.50 kg
Black Bear #13-0425: 2.00 kg
Black Bear #13-0450: 4.30 kg
Black Bear #13-0469:  5.20 kg
Black Bear #13-0470: 4.50 kg
Black Bear #13-0471:  3.70 kg

Each of these six bears are now receiving two feedings a day – at about 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. They are also receiving a “mush bowl” each night, which consists of soaked dry dog food, topped with thickened formula and baby food.

Black Bear cub #13-0646 was moved to Bear Pen 1 on May 4. The cub was enclosed in a crate for the first few days for a gradual introduction; the crate door was opened on May 6. This cub is currently receiving three bottle-feedings each day; the staff are working on introducing the concept of drinking formula from a bowl. The cub weighs in at 1.91 kg.

Wondering what it’s like to be in the bear pen with the bears?  Watch these videos, filmed with our new GoPro Hero3 camera!

Short version:

Long version: