Black Bear cubs of 2015

April 4, 2015
April 20, 2016
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

In April 2015, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year’s bear cubs from locations throughout Virginia. These bears were likely born in early January to mid-February of 2015. The cubs were suspected separated from their mothers, or possibly orphaned. In most cases, the cub was left alone for a period of time to allow the sow to come back and reunite with it.

When introduced to other bears, each cub has a temporary colored ear tag placed in its left ear. These tags will be removed prior to release and will be replaced with more permanent green or black ear tags from the Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries. The temporary colored tags allow the Center staff to monitor and identify the cubs via Critter Cam.

During bottle- and bowl-feeding, when the cubs require a special bear formula, they are housed in the Center’s Bear Pens. Once the bear cubs are weaned from formula, they will be moved to the Center’s Black Bear Complex, which will likely be early June. In the Bear Complex, the bears will have plenty of room to continue growing, away from humans.

The 2015 bear cubs include:

Cub #15-0224, male, no tags
Cub #15-0292, male, red tag
Cub #15-0354, male, yellow tag
Cub #15-0458, male, orange tag
Cub #15-0503, male, white tag
Cub #15-0504, male, pink tag
Cub #15-1651, female, green tag

Watch the cubs on Critter Cam!

Read our 2015 Frequently Asked Questions about Black Bear cubs

Bears in the news:

Caring for Bears, WVIR-TV

Bear cubs feeding time, The News Leader

Wildlife Center Treating Three Black Bears, WSHV-TV

Why are there so many orphaned baby bears?, WTKR-TV

Patient Updates

Day Three of the Black Bear release went well. While White Tag and Green Tag were too suspicious of the humans to be lured into the transition area for darting, Dr. Dave was able to successfully dart them both in the main yard of the Bear Complex. Interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra said that when White Tag woke up in the bear transport trap, he was angrily smacking his lips and huffing at the humans.

Kendra was able to attend the release with VDGIF biologists Jaime and Dave. The bears were released near a pond (with trout in it!); White Tag sprang out of the bear trap and dove into the watering hole to swim across from humans as quickly as possible. Green Tag took the longer route around the water and headed off into the woods with White Tag.

Here are the first and last weights of the seven bears of 2015:

Photos of Release Week:

Black Bears of 2015: Release Week 2016

Here’s a look back the Black Bears of 2015–2016:

The bear releases are underway!

On the afternoon of Monday, April 18, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries picked up three of the 2015 bears for release in a remote location in the state. Red Tag, No Tag, and Yellow Tag were successfully darted; Red Tag and Yellow Tag had their colored identifying tags removed from their left ears, and Dr. Dave placed a green release ear tag in each bear’s ear. They were then placed into large DGIF bear traps after each bear had his final physical examination. The biologist said the release went well; all three bears ran off into the woods and out of sight.

On Tuesday, April 19, the releases continued – Orange Tag and Pink Tag were lured into the transition area of the bear complex so that they could be darted for their final examination and ear tag placement. The bears were taken by two DGIF biologists to a different release location; Dr. Dave and interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra also attended the release. Kendra reports, "One bear quickly took off into the woods; the other bear hesitated before he hopped out of the trap and took off at full speed. I’m so excited I was able to go on the release; it was amazing to see."

On Wednesday, the final two bears of 2015 will be released – White Tag and Green Tag will head to a third bear habitat for release.


The bear releases begin a week from today!

On Monday, April 18, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries will come to the Center to pick up three bears, and will release them in a good bear habitat in a remote part of the state. On Tuesday, more bears will be picked up by a different biologist, and will be released at a different location.

The rest of the 2015 bears will likely be released Wednesday, but the veterinary staff will also be trying to evaluate “Black Tag” — yearling #16-0054 who was admitted in thin body condition in February 2016. Dr. Dave would like to get an accurate weight on Black Tag and assess her body condition. If she’s put on significant weight, she will likely be released with one of the 2015 bears during the week of April 18. If she still needs to put on additional weight, she’ll remain at the Center for another couple of months, just to give her the best advantage prior to release. One of the 2015 bears may remain with her to be a buddy.

Because Black Tag is so shy, and has not yet been lured into the Center’s transition area, she’ll probably need to be darted and sedated in the main yard so that the veterinary staff can get a weight. Dr. Dave hopes that this will be possible after a few of the bears leave on Monday, so plans on Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20 won’t be fully formed until Black Tag is weighed. We look forward to sending these bears back to the wild!


The Black Bear pre-release examinations went well this week. Each of the seven bear yearlings from 2015 was darted, anesthetized, and examined; each bear also had blood drawn and was weighed. The veterinary team also performed skin scrapes on yearlings Red Tag, Yellow Tag, and Pink Tag, since some patchy hair loss was noted. While Green Tag’s hair coat still looks patchy from a distance, upon examination, the team could see her hair growing back in, and no skin scrape was needed.

The bear weights were as follows:

Orange Tag – 72.8 kg
Red Tag – 71.5 kg
Yellow Tag – 67.6 kg
White Tag – 54.7 kg
Pink Tag – 53.5 kg
Blank/No Tag – 52.9 kg
Green Tag – 42.3 kg

White Tag, waiting his turn: 

Red Tag gets a drink of water: 

Bear yoga?

Yellow Tag is darted: 


Dr. Dave prepares to dart another bear: 

Kendra waits with a bear waking up from anesthesia: 

Meanwhile … wrestling: 

This morning, interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra opened the connecting door between transition area #1 and yard #1 in the Black Bear Complex. This not only introduced the newest yearling, #16-0054, to the other seven bears, but it is also the first step in preparing for next month’s bear release!

Next week, the seven bears of 2015 will receive preliminary health checks. When possible, the Wildlife Center likes to gather as much data as possible on healthy patients that are ready for release – a typical pre-release examination for any animal includes a physical exam and blood work. These upcoming exams will also include skin scrapes and weight checks. Because “Green Tag” bear has had some issues with hair loss, and several of the male cubs were treated for ringworm last summer, this will be an opportunity for the Center veterinarians to provide a thorough exam and diagnostics to determine if additional treatments are needed prior to release.

Introducing the bears into the transition area will give them several days to get used to the new space. Ideally, the bears will be shifted into the transition area, so that the veterinary staff can dart them in an area where they are unable to climb trees. The Bear Cam will be turned off during the darting and examinations.

If all goes according to plan, the bears will be released in mid-April.

Black bear #15-1651 – also known as “Green Tag” – has now received four doses of an anti-parasitic medication during the past month. Interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra was able to throw (with good accuracy!) medicated treats to Green Tag and ensured that the yearling bear ate her entire treat each week.

At this point, it doesn’t appear as though Green Tag’s hair loss has been getting worse – and it may take some time to show improvement. If Green Tag did have mange, the anti-parasitic may have killed the mites causing the mange, but it will take time for the hair to start to grow back. The veterinary staff will assess her hair loss in two weeks.

All seven bears continue to remain fairly active, especially on warmer weather days. Dr. Dave, the Center’s veterinary director, has been talking to DGIF Black Bear Project Leader Jaime Sajecki about the spring bear release. At this point, the plan is to release the bears sometime in April. More details will be planned in the next month.

Morning stretches with a bear:

The seven Black Bear cubs have been doing well at the Wildlife Center during the past few months. The bears have remained fairly active, despite the recent cold weather – likely because of their plentiful food source. Critter Cam viewers have been able to watch the growing bears eat, wrestle, climb trees, and sleep. The rehabilitation staff regularly provide a variety of enrichment items for the curious cubs, including stuffed pumpkins, Christmas trees, and special food items.

Since mid-December, the rehabilitation staff noted that “Green Tag” cub #15-1651 has had some fur loss on her chest. The staff have been monitoring Green Tag regularly, and on January 26, decided that the hair loss appeared to be more extensive. Without performing a skin scrape, the staff are unable to determine if the exact cause of the hair loss, but based on appearance, the vets suspect it could be mange. Dr. Dave and Dr. Helen discussed a treatment plan and decided to start with a conservative approach – medicating Green Tag orally. For the next month, rehabilitation intern Kendra will attempt to provide a medicated special treat for Green Tag once a week (on Thursdays). Because the cubs know Kendra and the other few members of the rehabilitation staff, Kendra feels fairly confident that she can deliver a medicated treat to Green Tag. If another bear intercepts the treat, there is no cause for concern – Kendra will just try again to ensure Green Tag receives her medication.

One Critter Cam viewer created a video featuring the bears – this past weekend’s snowstorm offered some interesting bear-watching opportunities. One cub decided to weather the snowstorm in a tree; he stayed put for two days, letting snow cover and insulate him. The other bears came out to explore and play after the storm subsided; Saturday’s full moon and reflective snow offered a special cam-watching opportunity late at night.

The seven bear cubs have been doing well at the Wildlife Center this summer. As many Critter Cam viewers can attest, the cubs have grown larger – they are clearly eating well! Even “green tag” – female cub #15-1651 – has put on a lot of weight. It took the newest addition a couple of weeks to warm up to her new “brothers”, but the cubs seem to enjoy each other’s company and are often seen napping, eating, and playing together. One Critter Cam viewer was able to grab a couple of videos of green tag interacting with her new roommates – or just playing by herself!

The Center will be keeping the seven bear cubs throughout the winter and will plan on releasing them in the spring of 2016. This decision came as a result of bear expert Else Poulsen’s visit earlier this summer, and discussion with staff at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. This period of time is approximately the same amount of time that cubs would remain with their sows in the wild. By the time we release the cubs, they will be ready to be independent and disperse at a time of year when food is plentiful.

That means the Center will be going through a lot of groceries for the bears – rehabilitator Leighann recently noted that the bears are eating more, and leaving fewer leftovers! In addition to the “usual” cub diet [dog food, seeds, insects, fruits, greens], the staff will be increasing the number of acorns and other native nuts on the cub’s daily menu. The cubs will spend a lot of time eating and bulking up for the winter – check them out on Critter Cam!

The Black Bear cub move went well on Sunday, June 14. The bears were shifted into the den of Bear Pen #3 at 8:00 a.m.; Bear Pen #2 was set-up ahead of time as a weighing and examination area. Rehabilitation intern Brittany controlled the guillotine door as Dr. Kelli and Leighann were poised in the main area of pen #3 to catch the cubs, one at a time. From there, the cubs were taken into Bear Pen #2 for a quick examination and a weight.

The team found that, along with pink tag cub, white tag [#15-0503] also had some ringworm lesions. Orange tag [#15-0458] had a sparse hair coat; while it didn’t look like classic ringworm symptoms, the team decided to go ahead and treat that bear for ringworm too. Each of the three cubs was injected with a sedative, and Drs. Helen and Meghan began the lime sulfur tip treatment.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kelli and Brittany drove red tag, yellow tag, and no tag to the Black Bear Complex in the Center’s Polaris. Once all three zinger crates were moved into yard #1, Dr. Kelli and Brittany opened the doors of the crates. The cubs cautiously stepped out into the yard and began sniffing the air.

Within minutes, red tag and yellow tag were climbing a nearby tree. No tag walked around the yard at first, before climbing a tree about 10 minutes later. The cubs spent their first half hour in the yard climbing up and down the same tree, taking in their new surroundings.

The three cubs treated for ringworm were each placed in a crate and moved to the bottom level of the tower in the Black Bear Complex for about 90 minutes while they fully dried. Drs. Helen, Kelli, and diagnostic intern Rose then let the three cubs out in the yard. Pink tag cub was the first up a tree; he was quickly joined by orange tag. White tag went to the back corner of the complex to observe everything.

The weights of the six cubs were:

White #0503: 8.5 kg
Pink #0504: 9.1 kg
Orange #0458: 10.8 kg
Blank #0224: 11.0 kg
Yellow #0354: 12.9 kg
Red #0292: 16.1 kg

The rehabilitation team will feed the cubs once a day for now. The staff will change the time of feeding each day so that the cubs don’t expect food at a certain time. Food will be thrown over the fence and scattered throughout the yard.

More photos:

Bear Cubs 2015

After much discussion, the staff has come up with a plan for the six Black Bear cubs. The staff knows that pink tag cub [#15-0504] has ringworm, a contagious fungal infection of the skin. On Sunday, June 14, the vet staff will manually catch and restrain the other five cubs for a quick physical examination. As long as the cubs have no signs of ringworm, they will be moved to the Black Bear Complex that same morning. The staff will begin at 8:00 a.m.

If any of the other cubs do have signs of ringworm, the cubs will be treated, along with pink tag cub. A typical course of treatment for a dog or cat with ringworm can include multiple lime sulfur baths given over the course of weeks. This will not be a viable option for treating a wild young bear cub, due to the stress of being housed alone as well as frequent anesthesia and handling.

After conferring with a board-certified dermatologist, the staff decided to anesthetize #15-0504 [along with any other affected cubs] on Sunday and will bathe him in a lime sulfur dip for a single treatment. Once fully awake and recovered, the cub will join his siblings in the Bear Complex.

The cub cams will be off on Sunday morning for the capture and treatment. The cam footage will resume on Sunday after the cubs are settled into the Bear Complex!  Remember to read our FAQ document for more information about the Black Bear Complex.

A preview of Complex Cams … 

During the past two days, the rehabilitation staff have been preparing yard #1 of the Bear Complex for the arrival of the cubs. Acorns and seed were scattered throughout the half-acre area, and two piece of enrichment “furniture” were added: a hammock and a tire bridge!

In the meantime, the staff have continued to monitor the small areas of hair loss on cub #15-0504 [pink-tag]. While a DTM test [for ringworm] at the end of May revealed negative results, the staff later realized that the test had not been run long enough to get an accurate result. Additional samples were taken over the weekend of June 6, and results were read today: ringworm positive.

With one cub positive for ringworm, and the other cubs exposed, the move to the Bear Complex will be postponed. Treatment options will be discussed this week, prior to moving the cubs.

The six Black Bear cubs have been doing well during the past week. The rehabilitation staff have been slowly weaning the cubs off of their formula “mush bowls”, and as of June 8, the cubs are no longer receiving any type of formula. The cubs are enjoying a wide variety of adult foods, and the rehabilitation staff have been incorporating a lot of food into enrichment activities for the cubs. If you haven’t watched the Critter Cams lately, here’s a video of food enrichment in action!

Now that the cubs are weaned, it’s time to move them to the Black Bear Complex. The move will likely take place on Thursday, June 11. The rehabilitation staff will prepare yard #1 of the Black Bear Complex this week; they’ll check all fences, gates, anti-climbing devices, pool, and automatic waterer to ensure everything is ready for the six cubs. If everything goes according to plan, the cubs will be shifted into crates [not sedated] on Thursday for the big move.

In other bear-related news, the Wildlife Center will be hosting a special guest later this month. Else Poulsen, founder of Behavior & Environmental Solutions, will be coming to the Center in late June as a consultant. Else is known internationally for her captive bear husbandry and rehabilitation expertise. Else will spend two days at the Wildlife Center, reviewing husbandry, diet, and enrichment protocols for Black Bears. She has also agreed to be a special guest on our Critter Cam moderated discussion – stay tuned for more details!

The bear cubs are doing well; they continue to eat … and eat! At this point, the cubs are still receiving mush bowls twice a day, but that will soon change. The bears are also eating a wide variety of adult foods. Grapes are a particular favorite, but so are berries, seeds, nuts, and fresh leafy branches.

On Monday, May 25, white-tag and pink-tag cubs were separated from the others so they could be receive a deworming medication [given three times to each cub at a two-week interval]. The cubs are only weighed on an as-needed basis now; medicating the cubs was an opportunity to weigh these two. White-tag cub [#15-0503] weighed 5.2 kg; pink-tag [#15-0504] weighed 5.9 kg.

The staff also noted a small area of hair loss on #15-0504’s head; an additional exam revealed several more small patches. Samples were taken to test for ringworm, which came back negative. The staff will discuss plans next week, when they also discuss the plan for moving the cubs to the Black Bear Complex.

On Tuesday, May 19, Dr. Kelli opened the sliding door between Bear Pen 2 and Bear Pen 3 – giving the six cubs access to both pens. Bear Pen 2 is set up with a tire swing, and the cam view also captures a view of the “sink” (a popular sleeping spot in BP3).

The cubs are still receiving mush bowls and lots of adult foods twice a day. Once the cubs are fully weaned from mush, they will be moved to the Black Bear Complex — likely in early June.

All six Black Bear cubs are doing well at the Center – they are eating well and gaining weight! The rehabilitation staff now shift the bears into the den area for food deliveries; the staff rarely have direct contact with the cubs at this point. Dr. Kelli was able to train this shifting behavior through positive reinforcement; food was offered in the den area to get the cubs to shift, but at this point, the bears shift on their own.

The cubs are still being served two mush bowls each day, but are also receiving an increasing amount of “adult” bear food to explore and eat. The goal will be to wean the cubs from formula by the end of May; in early June the staff will assess when the cubs can be moved directly to the Black Bear Complex.

The cubs are now weighed on an “as needed” basis; if there is a procedure scheduled, the cubs will be weighed, but otherwise the staff will no longer weigh them unless there is concern. Orange-tag cub received a de-worming medication this week, and the two newest cubs were weighed as a routine check after being placed with the other cubs.

Current weights:

#15-0224 (no tag): 6.30 kg [5/7]
#15-0292 (red): 7.40 kg [5/7]
#15-0354 (yellow): 4.90 kg [5/7]
#15-0458 (orange): 4.6 kg [5/13]
#15-0503 (white): 3.5 kg [5/13]
#15-0504 (pink): 4.4 kg [5/13]

Black Bear cubs #15-0503 and 15-0504 have been drinking their formula out of bowl during the past few days, which means it’s time to introduce them to the four other cubs at the Center. Cub #15-0503 lost a little weight, but wildlife rehabilitator Leighann noted that his sibling, #15-0504, has been hogging the formula dishes. Dr. Kelli and Leighann agree that getting the two cubs into a bigger space with more food and other cubs will likely even out the food distribution. All cubs will be weighed on Monday.

Tune in to Critter Cam to watch all six cubs!

On Monday, May 4, Dr. Meghan and Dr. Kelli re-evaluated Black Bear cub #15-0458. The cub was walking normally, and did not appear to have any issues with his wrists; he had also gained weight and was eating well. With a clean bill of health, the cub was introduced to the other cubs in Bear Pen 3, bringing the current count to four on Cub Cam.

All cubs have been bowl-feeding well, and all gained weight, indicating that bottle feeding is no longer needed. The four cubs will continue to receive two bowls of thickened formula each day, as well as a variety of other soft foods to explore and eat.

Current weights:

#15-0224 (no tag): 5.50 kg
#15-0292 (red): 6.40 kg
#15-0354 (yellow): 4.10 kg
#15-0458 (orange): 3.02 kg

The trio of black bear cubs is doing well – as many Critter Cam viewers can attest, the cubs are an energetic and playful bunch! The bears were weighed on Monday:

Cub #15-0224 (no tag): 4.2 kg
Cub #15-0292 (red tag): 5.1 kg
Cub #15-0354 (yellow tag): 3.1 kg

With this latest weight gain, the rehabilitation staff have decided to attempt to stop bottle feeding and transition the cubs onto bowl feeding only. During the next two days, the cubs will be served their thickened formula in bowls twice a day. The cubs are also given soft “adult” foods as well – soft fruits and greens. The cubs have been seen using the greens and plants as both food and toys.

The cubs will be weighed again on Thursday.

The three bear cubs are doing well at the Wildlife Center. The bears are eating well, and as of April 20, the bears were cut back to twice-a-day bottle feedings. In between feedings they are offered a “mush bowl” consisting of thickened formula, soft dog food, and small pieces of fruit. The bears are weighed twice a week to ensure each cub is eating enough food; on April 23, weights were as follows:

Cub #15-0224 (no tag): 3.8 kg
Cub #15-0292 (red tag): 4.6 kg
Cub #15-0354 (yellow tag): 2.6 kg

Wildlife rehabilitator Leighann took the Center’s GoPro into the bear pen during a feeding session this week; the bears enjoyed taking their own video footage: