Black Bear cubs of 2019

Cause of Admission/Condition
Separated from mothers
Former Patient
Patient photo

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In late April 2019, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year’s bear cubs from several locations throughout Virginia. These bears were likely born between early January to mid-February of 2019. In most cases, the cubs were separated from their mothers.

The young bears will be cared for by the Wildlife Center until next spring, at the time when they would begin naturally dispersing from their mothers. The 2019 cubs will be released in the spring of 2020.

To limit human interaction, only a few staff care for the bear cubs. Depending on their age and condition when they arrive, cubs may live in a Zinger crate, in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, or in the Center’s Black Bear Complex. The Center has some set weight guidelines that help determine when cubs are ready to move to their next stage of housing; usually cubs move to the Large Mammal enclosure when they are more than 3.0 kg [typically in May] and are large enough to move to the Black Bear Complex when they are more than 10 kg [typically in July]. Cubs also must be weaned from formula before they are moved to the Black Bear Complex, where they 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 ear tags from the Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries. The temporary colored tags allow the Center staff to monitor and identify the cubs. The green "release" tags identify them as rehabilitated bear cubs.

The 2019 bear cubs include:

Black Bear cub #19-0492 [White Tag], female
Black Bear cub #19-0546 [No Tag], female
Black Bear cub #19-1176 [Orange Tag], male
Black Bear cub #19-3305 [Pink Tag], female
Black Bear cub #19-3292 [Green Tag], male

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Patient Updates

Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey spoke with DGIF biologists on Monday afternoon to touch base about final release plans for the four Black Bear yearlings currently living in the Center’s Bear Complex. The release is scheduled for Monday, April 27!

A biologist will drop off two bear traps for the staff on Thursday, April 23; Kelsey and Shannon will be working on getting the bears into the transition area later this week for easier release plans on Monday. They will also leave the giant live humane traps in the yard to desensitize the yearlings to those traps; the staff anticipates that Double Pink tag may need to be lured and trapped since she often stays high in the trees and avoids the other bears and humans.

As long as the bears can be successfully darted and anesthetized, the biologists plan on releasing the four cubs in three different locations. White Tag and No Tag, who have been together since last spring, will be released together. Double Pink Tag and Green Tag will be released separately.

Wildlife rehabilitators Kelsey and Shannon spoke to DGIF biologists on the afternoon of April 7, to make plans for the release of the four bear yearlings in Bear Complex yard #1. Since "Pink Tag" bear has been seen climbing trees in recent weeks, the rehabilitation staff are no longer concerned about releasing the bear.

DGIF biologists will plan to release the bears during the week of April 27. The rehabilitation staff are currently dropping food in the lower part of the yard, near the transition area of yard #1, in hopes of getting the cubs used to hanging out in that area. The staff will also introduce the very large live traps to the yard, just to get the bears used to them, in case the traps are needed to help capture the bears before release.


The two bears that grew up together since last spring, White Tag and No Tag, will be released together. At this point, it’s likely that Pink Tag and Green Tag will be released separately in the counties in which they were rescued late last year. Both bears were admitted in December and have not bonded in the months they’ve been at the Center; as many Critter Cam viewers have noted, Pink Tag, in particular, does not appear to enjoy being with the other bears.

In mid-March, the rehabilitation staff were able to flush Pink Tag into the main part of yard #1, in hopes of better assessing how the yearling was moving and climbing. Given her smaller, stunted stature, the staff wanted to be sure that the bear was able to move and climb normally before they made any release plans. Pink Tag still prefers to avoid the other bears in the yard, but during late March, several Critter Cam viewers spotted her in a tree!

The staff are still continuing to monitor her movements and hope to see more indications of climbing in the next week. The other bears are doing well, and wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey will talk to DGIF biologists during the week of April 6 to determine a release plan.

Happy Birthday, bears! Today is the median birth date for Black Bears in Virginia — so at the Wildlife Center, any bears currently in care receive a birthday celebration.

The rehabilitation staff created several bear cakes in the animal kitchen today, with the largest and heaviest cake created for the two bears in the Center’s Black Bear Complex. The cake had four layers, full of fruit, dog food, goose meat, and tuna; the cake was assembled with peanut butter icing and topped with mealworms and crumbled cherry pie (typically only used for delivering required medications).

Rehabilitators Shannon and Kylee delivered the cake at about 1:00 p.m., though both bears were hunkered down in their large woodpile, which has been a favorite den during the cold weather. These two bears have generally avoided the rehabilitation staff during their time at the Center; with the colder weather coming, they are more interested in staying away from people and staying warm!

About 20 minutes after the cake was delivered, a titmouse joined the party!

By 3:30 p.m., there was still no sign of the bears, though many different species of birds had crashed the party, including a wren, a nuthatch, ravens, and many Turkey and Black vultures! Tune in via Critter Cam to see if you can catch a glimpse of the cake!

The two bears in the Center’s Bear Pens will each receive their small cake tomorrow; one bear is being fasted today due to a follow-up physical exam and skin scraping that’s scheduled for tomorrow.

The two Black Bear cubs are doing well in the Black Bear Complex at the Center. As many Critter Cam viewers can attest, the two young females have put on quite a lot of weight in the past two months!

Recently, the bears enjoyed a very special meal of restaurant-grade salmon – a local restaurant received their ordered shipment of fish, but while the salmon was still cold, it wasn’t frozen, which meant they were unable to serve the fish to humans. Instead, they donated the cold salmon to the Center – and the bears enjoyed an extra special meal!

On August 28, the rehabilitation team successfully moved the 2019 Black Bear cubs to the Bear Complex! Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey and wildlife rehab intern Kylee were unable to safely trap the cubs in a zinger crate, choosing instead to dart and anesthetize both of the bears within the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure. After Dr. Ernesto conducted a visual examination both of the cubs spent the night in a smaller transition area within the complex, giving them plenty of time to acclimate to their new environment.

The following morning, wildlife rehabilitator Shannon opened the transition area, and each of the bears immediately began to explore! Within a few minutes, White Tag headed for a tree and began to climb, but seemed to change her mind and joined No Tag on the ground instead. Before leaving, Shannon scattered a small amount of produce on the ground within the complex, encouraging the cubs to forage and move throughout the new space. Now that these bears have full access to a half-acre of trees, artificial dens, and a swimming pool, they’re certain to be busy in the coming days!

No Tag looking into yard #1 from the transition area:


No Tag and White Tag climbing their first trees:


After months of repairs and work on the Bear Complex, the two-acre facility is once again ready to house bears! Wildlife rehabilitator Kelsey and rehabilitation intern Kylee will do a final walk-through and fence test on the morning of August 28. If all checks out, the two cubs will be moved to yard #1 later that day. The rehabilitation staff will try to trap the two cups in a zinger crate [without sedation] for moving. Watch for them when Critter Cam changes to the bear yard!

In the meantime, the cubs have been enjoying a variety of food and enrichment – including live fish!

Repairs and preparation of the Black Bear Complex continue, though are not yet complete! The plumbing issues have been fixed, though the construction company will be back one more time to work on a sliding door gate to one of the bear yards, which is difficult to open due to erosion issues. An amazing crew of volunteers has been working on trimming all the tree limbs around the fences; this work is nearly complete. Once trees are fully cleared around the fences, an electrician will return to the Center and test the electric fence. Some trees will be wrapped in a heavy plastic sheet to prevent climbing.

Once all these repairs are made, the complex will be ready! At this point, the staff are hoping this will be done in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, the cubs are doing well in the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure.

Despite the high temperatures, the two Black Bear cubs have been quite active in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure lately! Critter Cam viewers have been able to capture the cubs using the ceiling of the enclosure like a set of monkey bars.

Work continues on the Black Bear Complex; contractors are scheduled to finish fixing all plumbing issues on Monday, July 22. Center rehabilitators and students have been working on trimming a number of lower limbs in the complex; a tree service will be at the Center within the next week to trim the higher branches that may prove to be future escape routes for cubs and yearlings. The Center also received a new shipment of thick black plastic to strategically wrap around several trees; this material helps prevent climbing on a number of trees close to the edge of each yard.

Staff hope to move the cubs to the Complex toward the end of the month; staff would like to test the water system for several days after it’s fixed to make sure no additional plumbing problems are noted.

The two Black Bear cubs are doing well in the Center’s Large Mammal enclosure; last week, the wildlife rehabilitation staff opened up the connecting chute between both sides of the enclosure, to allow the cubs to have access to both sides.

Construction crews have been working on Black Bear Complex repairs during the past month; they have been able to fix a broken pipe and several valves in the water system throughout the two-acre complex. There are still some additional plumbing issues to adjust in the next two weeks.

A crew also came to work on building some water run-off controls; the entire complex is built on a sizeable hill, so the Center has been experiencing some erosion issues during the past couple of years, which seems to be starting in the bear complex. Last week, the Center had a heavy rain, which was helpful in flagging areas where additional erosion mitigation is needed.

Additionally, a tree-trimming crew will be here within the next two weeks to trim limbs that have grown close to all of the interior and perimeter fencing in the complex. The plan is for all repairs to be done by July 23, so the cubs can move to the yard at that time, as long as they are more than 10 kg in weight.

The trio of Black Bear cubs have been entertaining a variety of Critter Cam viewers. They appear to enjoy sleeping in their hammock but often wake up for wild play sessions throughout the day. Orange Tag has been playing and sleeping with his new sisters, though the two larger females are typically first to arrive at the mush bowls once they are delivered. The staff have been carefully monitoring the cubs’ food intake.

Orange Tag weighed in at 3.25 kg on Thursday, June 13 – the same weight he was on Monday, June 10 when he first moved in with the two other cubs. He’s maintaining his weight, though the rehabilitation staff would like to see the cub’s weight increase, even with the dramatic increase in his activity level.

After two more days of observation, the rehabilitation staff decided to move Orange Tag to the connecting chute of the Large Mammal enclosure, so that he could fully eat his twice-daily mush bowls. On June 16, the rehabilitation team noted that Orange Tag wasn’t eating much, so Dr. Karra performed an examination, including blood work. The cub was given fluids and returned to a zinger crate in the right side of the Large Mammal enclosure.

Some blood work values were mildly elevated, likely due to the bear’s young age and poor appetite. The staff will monitor the cub carefully in the next few days.

Black Bear cub Orange Tag has been recovering from his forehead laceration; wildlife rehabilitator Shannon noted that the wound looked a little open over the weekend, though it appears as though it was a small area and no additional sutures were needed. Dr. Karra carefully applied a topical ointment to prevent flystrike.

Fortunately, as of this morning, Orange Tag weighs more than 3.0 kg – and can be moved into the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure with the two female bears! The rehab staff will make the introductions at the afternoon/evening feeding. While the female bears are suited to eat just once a day, Orange Tag needs twice a day feedings until he reaches 5.0 kg, therefore everyone will likely share in the twice-a-day feedings.

The two Black Bear Cub sisters [No Tag and White Tag] are currently being fed just once a day; each cub gets a mush bowl, plus a shared “juvenile” bear meal that weighs six pounds! The juvenile meal contains fruits, veggies, seeds, greens, and dog food. The rehabilitation team reports that the two sisters are doing well and remain quite wild and feisty. The cubs are still being treated with a topical antifungal spray, though this treatment is increasingly difficult.

On Tuesday afternoon, rehabilitator Kelsey noted that Orange Tag – the small male that is currently in a Zinger crate – had a laceration on his forehead. Kelsey suspects that the cub may have cut his head on the inside latch of the Zinger crate since this tiny cub often lunges and bluffs at the door at the rehabilitators during feeding time. Dr. Peach was able to anesthetize the cub and suture the wound; it appears to be healing well. As of June 6, the cub weighed 2.79 kg; he’s currently being fed twice a day. Hopefully, by next week, the small male will be able to join the other two cubs in the main area of the Large Mammal enclosure.