Black Bear cubs of 2016

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In April 2016, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year’s bear cubs from locations throughout Virginia. These bears were likely born between early January to mid-February of 2016. In some cases, the cubs were separated from their mothers; in one case, a cub was truly orphaned after his mother was killed by a vehicle. Another cub had injuries likely sustained from an animal attack. Three cubs were able to be fostered onto surrogate sows at Virginia Tech’s Black Bear Research Center and were released in May.

Bear cubs at the Wildlife Center are rehabilitated for a year and are released in the following spring, at the time when they would begin naturally dispersing from their mothers. The 2016 cubs will be released in the spring of 2017.

Only a few staff care for the bear cubs, to limit human interaction. This year, during bottle- and bowl-feeding stage (when the cubs require a special bear formula), the cubs will be housed in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. Once the bear cubs are weaned from formula, they will be moved to the Center’s Black Bear Complex, where they will have a half-acre of forest to explore.

When introduced to other bears, each cub has a temporary colored tag placed in its ear. These tags will be removed prior to release and will be replaced with 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.

The 2016 bear cubs include:

Black Bear cub #16-0487 [White Tag], female
Black Bear cub #16-0568 [Red Tag], male
Black Bear cub #16-0598 [No Tag], male
Black Bear cub #16-1133 [Yellow Tag], female
Black Bear cub #16-1441 [Double Red Tag], male
Black Bear cub #16-1442 [Green Tag], male
Black Bear cub #16-1443 [Orange Tag], male
Black Bear cub #16-1654 [Pink Tag], female
Black Bear cub #16-1713 [Double Pink Tag], female
Black Bear cub #16-1813 [White/Pink Tags], female
Black Bear cub #16-1874 [Green and Yellow Tags], male
Black Bear cub #16-2441 [Red/Green Tags], male

There’s also a Black Bear yearling with the cubs — #16-2409 [Pink/Green Tags], female.

Frequently Asked Questions about Black Bear Rehabilitation [2016]

Patient Updates

On June 29, the last of the 2016 bears were darted and loaded for release!

The bears were less than cooperative for the veterinary team; one bear refused to shift into the transition area for easier darting, and had to be darted in the main bear yard. The bears that were in the transition area still managed to climb trees to evade the team for a period of time, but in the end, all were successfully and safely darted, anesthetized, examined, ear-tagged, and loaded into a VDGIF vehicle for transport to the release site.

Final weights were:

Red Tag: 60.5 kg
White Tag: 40.0 kg
Orange Tag: 38.8 kg
Green Tag: 49.8 kg

Red Tag: 

White Tag: 

Orange Tag: 

Green Tag: 

On Thursday, June 29, VDGIF biologists plan to pick up the rest of the 2016 bear yearlings for release! At this point, three of the bears are contained in the transition area of yard #3 to make the darting and anesthesia easier for loading; the rehabilitation team is still attempting to shift White Tag into the same area. If the bear is unable to be shifted, the veterinary team may have a harder time darting and loading the bear, but hope to send all four back to the wild on Thursday.

On Wednesday, June 7, Dr. Ernesto and wildlife rehabilitator Brie assessed the four remaining 2016 Black Bears in the Center’s Bear Complex. They decided that the bears were in good condition, and had a good hair coat growing in; Brie contacted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to start planning a release date.

The four yearling bears in the Center’s bear complex — White Tag, Red Tag, Green Tag, and Orange Tag — are doing well and re-growing their hair. During the week of May 22, Dr. Ernesto and wildlife rehabilitator Brie assessed the bears and decided to give them an additional two weeks of care prior to arranging their releases.

The final four bears of 2016 — White Tag, Red Tag, Green Tag, and Orange Tag — have been doing well in the Bear Complex. The staff rehabilitators note that they are seeing hair growth on all four bears.

In the meantime, the bears are testing two products for Virginia Correctional Enterprises, an agency of the Virginia Department of Corrections. The company provides employment training programs for offenders inside of Virginia Correctional Facilities. The two bear-resistant products, a trash can and a storage locker, have been manufactured from 14 gauge steel with welded seams and piano hinges.

On May 19, wildlife rehabilitator Brie placed peach cobbler donuts, berry cheese danish, and iced cinnamon danish inside the trashcan and storage locker, along with some wet cat food. The four bears were shifted into yard #2 with the two products; Green Tag was the first to check them out, but after he was unsuccessful getting into the products, he left the area.

On Tuesday, Dr. Ernesto was able to dart Double Pink Tag [#16-1713] and Yellow Tag [#16-1133] in the transition area of yard #1. Once both bears were sleepy, the gate to the yard was opened up so that the two remaining bears, Red Tag and Green Tag, would go into the yard so that the veterinary team could safely access the two darted bears.

Dr. Ernesto said that Double Pink Tag was in good condition; she weighed in at 37.8 kg. Yellow Tag also appeared healthy and in good condition, weighing in at 37.8 kg. Yellow Tag’s bloodwork revealed that she has heartworm, a parasitic roundworm spread by the bites of mosquitoes. Each bear that has been darted within the past two weeks has received an antiparasitic medication; the medication will treat the heartworm.

These two bears, along with Pink/Green Tags, will be released on Thursday, April 20.

On Saturday, Dr. Peach was able to dart Pink/Green Tags [Bear #16-2409, the two-year-old bear] and move her to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure in preparation for release. The bear’s physical exam showed no issues or abnormalities; she has a very healthy body condition and her hair coat looks good. The bear weighed in at 27.7 kg.

The remaining bears in the transition area will be darted and examined this week as the veterinary team is able; we have not yet received word from VDGIF about when the next bear release day will be.

The biologist who picked up the first three bears for yesterday’s release reported that all went well — Green/Red Tags was the first out of the container and ran off quickly as soon as the door was opened. No Tags bear was the second out, and still seemed a little sleepy, but he walked off into the woods. Yellow/Green was last out and also a little sluggish, but he went away from the truck and started nibbling on some clover tops before heading off into the woods.

Several VDGIF biologists are now assisting with a wildfire; hopefully we’ll know more next week about when the remaining bears will be released.

On Saturday, the veterinary team was able to successfully trap, dart, and anesthetize two more bears: 16-2441 (Red/Green Tag) and #16-1813 (Pink/White Tag). Dr. Peach noted that both bears looked very good, and had no hair abnormalities. Red/Green Tag weighed in at 16.4 kg and Pink/White was 29.6 kg. Both were moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure in preparation for release.

On Sunday, White Tag was darted and examined. Dr. Ernesto noted hair loss and hair breakage. There were no signs of mites on the bear’s skin scraping, but given the hair loss, Dr. Ernesto moved this bear to yard #3 for additional observation.

At this point, there are six bears in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure that will be released on Thursday; the vet staff decided not to move other bears to this area to avoid overcrowding in the final days of their care. The Large Mammal Isolation bears are:

Black Bear #16-0598 [No Tag], male
Black Bear #16-1441 [Double Red Tag], male
Black Bear #16-1654 [Pink Tag], female
Black Bear #16-1813 [White/Pink Tags], female
Black Bear #16-1874 [Green and Yellow Tags], male
Black Bear #16-2441 [Red/Green Tags], male

The remaining bears in the Complex were shuffled into yard #1; most were able to be caught in the transition area for easier darting on release day. Yellow Tag and Double Pink Tags are in the transition area; Pink/Green Tags [also scheduled for release on Thursday] is in yard #1.

On the afternoon of April 5, the "bear shuffling" began! Two live traps were set in the transition area of yard #1. Two bears took the bait quickly, and a third bear was trapped in the main transition area. Dr. Ernesto was able to dart and anesthetize all three and examine them.

Orange Tag [who actually lost his ear tag in the past week] was one of the bears trapped who has been exhibiting hair loss; Dr. Ernesto performed a skin scrap, which was negative for mites. Blood samples were taken, and Dr. Ernesto decided to treat the bear with an antiparasitic. The bear was moved to yard #3. Orange Tag weighed 46 kg.

Green/Yellow Tags was also caught; he weighed in at 65 kg and was moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure for next week’s release. No Tag was also trapped and moved with Green/Yellow Tags in preparation for release. He weighed in at 57 kg.

The trapping continued on Thursday morning; Double Red Tag was caught and anesthetized. While Double Red’s hair is abnormal, Dr. Ernesto found that the hair appears to be broken, likely from other bears barbering the bear’s hair. Without any signs of mange or ringworm, Dr. Ernesto is comfortable releasing this bear next week; Double Red was moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure.

In the afternoon, Pink Tag was able to be contained in transition area #1 of the Black Bear Complex. Dr. Ernesto successfully darted her, and says she looks "perfect". The bear was moved to Large Mammal Isolation in preparation for release.

More trapping will be attempted during the next few days, though the bears are becoming more wary of the traps!

Prior to shuffling, the bears discovered two mating toads in their pool:

The release of many of the Black Bears of 2016 is happening soon — starting on April 13! Biologists with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries will pick up eight bears next week and will transport them to three or four release sites.

Five of the bears will stay at the Center for now for additional skin scraping and testing, so that the veterinary team can learn more about the bears' hair loss.

Starting on April 5, the team will attempt to live trap some of the bears so that they can be "reorganized" according to release groups. Any bears with hair loss will be anesthetized and examined; the veterinarians will perform a skin scraping test to look for mites. Those bears will then move to yard #3. Any bears that are on the "release list" will be moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure for easier capture and loading next week.

The Wildlife Center staff have been conferring with Jaime Sajecki, the Black Bear Project Leader with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, to make a release plan for the 18 bears currently at the Wildlife Center.

During the first two weeks of April, 10 bears will be released, split into three or four groups. Three of the bears with noted hair loss — Green Tag, White Tag, and Yellow Tag — will be held back for an additional examination by the veterinary team. The remaining five bears — all admitted as starving yearlings — will remain at the Center for an additional month of food and care.

After much discussion, Jaime and the team decided that Black Bear #16-1874 — a bear that was kept illegally as a pet before he came to the Wildlife Center — can be released. Since the bear has shown enough improvement with his socialization with other bears as well as his reaction toward strangers, the team feels that he can be given a chance in the wild. The bear will be released in an area where there are very large undeveloped parcels of land with no public access.

During the past two weeks, the rehabilitation staff have been making preparations to open the gate that connects Bear Yard 1 to Bear Yard 2. There were a few repairs that had to be made, including replacing the protective cap on the swimming pool (destroyed by the bears of 2015), and fixing an issue with the hot wire around yard 1. On February 13, rehabilitator Brie was able to get the last of the fixes in place, and she opened the connecting gate.

At this point, the 13 bears will be allowed to have full range of both yards — an acre in size. If the staff notice that any bears are picking on one another (particularly Green Tag), an attempt will be made to separate out some of the bears that are having issues.

On Thursday, January 19, wildlife rehabilitator Linda was successfully able to shift Green Tag (plus a couple of other bears) into the transition area of Bear Yard #2. On Friday, Dr. Peach darted Green Tag. Once Green Tag started to feel the effects of the sedative, the door was open and the rest of the bears in the transition area were put back in the main yard, which made it safe for the team to go in and examine Green Tag.

Prior to the darting, Dr. Peach watched as the other bears were barbering (chewing on) on Green Tag’s fur, which led her to suspect that the hair issue was behavioral. Upon examination, the team could clearly see that Green Tag’s hair was present, but just very short and wiry. Skin scrapings were taken, and the team also gathered samples for a ringworm test. At this point, the results indicate that this is behavioral, and likely caused by some of the other bears in the yard who are picking on Green Tag.

The team will decide this week how to best give the bears in the yard more room; the adjoining door to yard #1 could be opened to either give all the bears more room, or an attempt at separating some specific bears might be made. While the Center staff had hoped to allow yard #1 to remain fallow for a year to regenerate plant growth, the current bear case load may mean a change of plans!

During the past couple of months, the veterinary team has been carefully monitoring the bears in the Bear Complex, particularly "Green Tag". This bear has been exhibiting some issues with his fur; in December, the fur on his hind end appeared to be present, but matted and not the same texture and color as the rest of his fur. This month, the changes in fur are more apparent on his chest and face. At this point, the veterinary team has decided to attempt to examine Green Tag.

In the next few days, rehabilitators Linda and Brie will attempt to isolate Green Tag, or at least will separate a number of bears so that it is safe for Dr. Ernesto to attempt to dart Green Tag.

The Black Bear "cubs" of 2016 are doing well at the Wildlife Center — and they are now considered yearlings! While we don’t know the exact birth dates of these cubs, according to a study by Kim Echols, Black Bear sows in Virginia have been documented giving birth from December 19 to February 22 – with a median date of January 17. That means many cubs are now being born in the commonwealth, and the 2016 bears are about one-year-old.

Rehabilitators Linda and Brie report that the bears are doing well in the Bear Complex. As many Critter Cam viewers can attest, the bears are all in very good body condition and have gained plenty of weight for the colder winter months. Since the bears aren’t eating as intently as they did in the fall, the rehabilitators are not offering food on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The bear known as "Green Tag" has been showing some hair issues in recent months; while the bear’s hair coat appeared to be matted and oddly textured a couple of months ago, the issue seems to be spreading to the bear’s chest and face. The vet staff is closely monitoring this change to see if intervention is required.

At this point, the yearlings are remaining active, as the weather has remained fairly warm so far this winter, with only a couple of "cold snaps". As additional bears are added to the Center’s Bear Complex [two from the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure and two from the Bear Pens] the staff will likely evaluate how to best divide the large group of bears between the yards.

The seven bear cubs settled into transition area #2 of the Black Bear Complex on Monday evening; the rehabilitation staff checked on the cubs before leaving for the evening. The staff planned on leaving the cubs in the transition area for one to two weeks to "meet and greet" their neighbor, Black Bear #16-0364 [Pink Tag] — but little Orange Tag quickly changed the plan for everyone!

When the staff checked on the cubs on July 12, they realized they were missing a cub — no Orange Tag was in the transition area. A quick scan of the bear yard revealed that Orange Tag had somehow slipped into the main yard — and was safely hanging out in a tree. Wildlife rehabilitator Linda spent a few hours observing the two-year-old bear and the cub, but neither showed interest in one another.

Rather than attempting to dart Pink Tag or move Orange Tag, the staff decided it was better just to accelerate the plan and let all cubs into the bear yard. Linda and wildlife rehabilitation intern Tori stayed at the complex to observe any interactions between Pink Tag and the cubs. After the connecting gate was opened for about 15 minutes, No Tag was the first cub to cautiously venture into the yard. A few minutes later, Red Tag joined him.

The cubs explored the area and climbed trees; they were soon joined by White Tag and Yellow Tag. Double Red Tag and Green Tag stayed in the transition area. No Tag took an unexpected dip in the pool in the bear yard, and White Tag also quickly discovered the water.

After slowly exploring their new area, No Tag and White Tag were brave enough to walk toward two-year-old Pink Tag at the back of the yard. The two cubs cautiously approached her; Pink Tag startled when they snapped a twig, but otherwise appeared uninterested.

The rehabilitation staff will continue to monitor the seven cubs and the two-year-old bear.

On July 11, the rehabilitation staff moved all seven bear cubs to the Black Bear Complex! The team used large humane traps, baited with tasty fried chicken, to trap each bear in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure; each trapped bear was then loaded onto the Polaris for a quick drive to transition area #2 in the Bear Complex.

Red Tag was the first cub moved, followed by No Tag, White Tag, Yellow Tag, and Orange Tag. The final two cubs had to be anesthetized for re-tagging; Green Tag’s identification tag had fallen out and had to be placed back in the cub’s right ear. Black Bear cub #16-1441 was initially fitted with a Red Tag; Dr. Peach and Dr. Ernesto added a Red Tag to his other ear as well.

The current weights are:

Red Tag – 13.5kg
Blank Tag – 13.8kg
White Tag – 11.9kg
Yellow Tag – 9.8kg
Orange Tag – 5.7kg
Green Tag – 9.6kg
Double Red Tag – 9.2kg

The bears eagerly explored their new area, which includes a large, sturdy "jungle gym" that was built by an eagle scout. The transition area hasn’t been used recently, and there is an abundance of shrub and tree growth, as well as ripening raspberry bushes.

The seven cubs will remain in transition area #2 so that they can "meet and greet" their older neighbor, Black Bear #16-0364. If all goes well, the cubs will soon be introduced to the two-year-old female bear, with the possibility of using the older bear as a surrogate and role model to the young cubs.

Bear Cubs of 2016: Move the Complex

The three Black Bear cubs are doing well in the Center’s Large Mammal enclosure. According to Dr. Kelli, they love climbing on the logs in their enclosure and swinging on the fire hose hammock. Rehabilitation interns Elise and Tori set up a new tire swing this weekend for the cubs, but so far the cubs haven’t yet used it.

Current cub weights (as of June 6):
White Tag: 4.9kg
Red Tag: 7.5 kg
No Tag: 5.6kg

The cubs are eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and seeds, and also continue to receive bear formula bowls twice a day.

On the afternoon of May 17, the three bear cubs were moved to the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. No Tag was the first to come out of the zinger crate, followed by Red Tag, then White Tag. White Tag watched her brothers from the safety of a bear den, while Red Tag and No Tag began climbing the walls and logs in the enclosure.

The bears are doing well so far, and the Center staff are working on diagnosing issues with the Critter Cam in this enclosure.



The trio of Black Bear cubs is doing well at the Wildlife Center. Until this week, the cubs have been housed in zinger crates in the Center’s Metal Cage Complex; this outdoor structure offers protection from the elements and has been a quiet place for the cubs to get used to bottle-feeding and meet one another. Now that the cubs are introduced and are getting more playful with one another, it’s time to move to a bigger enclosure!



This year, the cubs will next move to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. In the past, the Center has housed young cubs in the Bear Pens. Based on recommendations from Else Poulsen, this year the staff will house the growing cubs in the more open space of the Large Mammal enclosure until they are ready to move to the Black Bear Complex. At this point, the only bear caregivers are assistant vet director Dr. Kelli, rehabilitation intern Elise, and rehabilitation intern Tori.

Dr. Kelli reports that all three bears have been transitioned onto bowl-feeding, as opposed to bottle-feeding – which was each of the bear’s preference! In addition to the twice-a-day formula bowls, the bears are beginning to eat soaked dog food, soft fruits and veggies, fish, earthworms, crickets, and hard-boiled eggs. They will also be introduced to seed and nuts this week.

Current weights are:

White Tag: 3.14kg
Red Tag: 4.47kg
No Tag: 3.05kg

Unfortunately, several of the Center’s Critter Cams are down right now, including the camera in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. The staff hopes to have these fixed soon.