Black Bear Cubs of 2024

March 15, 2024
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Cause of Admission/Condition
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In March 2024, the Wildlife Center began admitting this year’s bear cubs; these young bears will be cared for by the Wildlife Center until spring 2025, at the time when they would begin naturally dispersing from their mothers.

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 indoors, in the Center’s Large Mammal Isolation enclosure, or 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 live in the Large Mammal enclosure when they are more than 3.0 kg (typically in April or 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.

Before cubs ultimately move to the Black Bear Complex, they are ear-tagged with a temporary colored tag so that the Center staff can monitor and identify the cubs from a distance. Staff prefers to ear tag cubs when they are around 5.0 kgs, which means smaller cubs admitted earlier in the spring typically don’t receive their tag until they are anesthetized for the move to the Bear Complex in the mid-summer. For smaller cubs admitted during the spring months, the staff clip a small amount of fur on each bear and then paint the bare spot so that the bears still have a temporary identification system. As larger cubs are admitted in late spring/early summer, they may be ear-tagged at admission before joining the other bear cubs.

Ultimately, most colored ear tags are removed before release and are replaced with permanent green ear tags from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which identify the bears as rehabilitated cubs.

The 2024 bear cubs include:

Black Bear cub #24-0302 (male) 
Black Bear cub #24-0385 (male) 
Black Bear cub #24-0744 (male)
Black Bear cub #24-0745 (male)
Black Bear cub #24-0999 (Red Tag, female)
Black Bear cub #24-1000 (Blue Tag, female)
Black Bear cub #24-1054 (Pink Tag, female)

Frequently Asked Questions: Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation

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Patient Updates

The seven Black Bear cubs have been doing well in the Center’s Large Mammal enclosure for the past two weeks. The cubs have had full access to both sides of the LMI since late May, and everyone is eating, growing, and playing.

The Large Mammal enclosure filled with toys and many branches

Most of the cubs are getting increasingly difficult to handle, so the rehabilitation staff have stopped weighing them weekly. As of June 3, Black Bear #24-0745 weighed 6.6 kg and #24-0744 weighed 7.2 kg. The staff will plan to weigh these bears one or two more times to ensure they are still growing, but otherwise, the staff will closely monitor the bears and their diets.

a bear cub eats watermelon

Earlier this month, wildlife rehabilitation team lead Mac checked on the bears and “was surprised to see zero bears. I usually get greeted by the two original cubs and then the girls all scramble to the highest possible point, but that morning, it was just silence with no bears in sight. I was starting to get really worried when I finally saw two eyes and a nose pop out of one of the igloos, and then all seven bears came piling out of the same igloo!”

The staff will move all seven bears to the Bear Complex this summer – possibly in July if all are large enough. Staff have been preparing the yards, making repairs, and planning for this year's crop of cubs; at this point, the bears will likely move to yard #2.

a bear cub peeks through branches of a tree

The Black Bear cubs of 2024 are no longer tiny babies -- they are quickly growing, both in size and personality!

During feeding times this week, the rehabilitation team noticed some inflammation around the colored ear tags on cubs #24-0999 and #24-1000. On May 21, Rehabilitation Supervisor Alex and rehabilitation intern Jenn sedated the two female cubs to remove these tags and clean the tag sites. Instead of replacing the tags on the cubs' right ears, they opted to leave those ears without tags and gave the cubs new "button tags" on their left ears. These new tags are the same colors as before, making cub #24-0999 Left Red Tag and cub #24-1000 Left Blue Tag. 

The following day, Rehabilitation Team Lead Mac discovered that cub #24-1054's right ear tag had been pulled off, likely during play sessions with the other cubs, now making her Left Pink Tag.

Mac reports that all of the cubs are "crazy and eating lots! The females still really like corn and the males all love grapes." The rehab team plans to introduce the male and female cubs later this week, although only cub #24-1000 (Blue Tag) appears to be curious about the male cubs. Rehab staff will monitor the cubs when they are introduced to ensure they are getting along.

While four of the cubs were weighed this week, the rehab team will cease regular weighing of the cubs within the next week due to safety concerns, as the cubs are growing large enough to present significant handling challenges. The two smallest males will likely be weighed one more time next week, but all future weights will have to be under sedation.

This week's weight reports for the cubs:

  • #24-0744: 6.79 kg
  • #24-0745: 5.89 kg
  • #24-0999 (Red Tag): 7.84 kg
  • #24-1000 (Blue Tag): 7.99 kg

The Black Bear cubs of 2024 are continuing to grow and are now large enough to reach new areas of their enclosures! 

The first two male cubs, #24-0302 and #24-0385, have figured out how to get into the hammock in their enclosure and enjoy playing together in it. The rehab staff have decided to stop weighing cub #24-0302 due to his large size and rambunctious personality. "Since he was bottle fed as a baby and is not particularly scared of us, it poses a safety risk to be in the enclosure with him or handling him," says Rehabilitation Team Lead Mac. For this reason, the rehabilitators will now shift this cub into the chute connecting the two sides of Large Mammal Isolation (LMI) when they enter the enclosure to avoid interacting with him.

The two smaller male cubs, #24-0744 and #24-0745, have been getting along well with the first two cubs, and they all enjoy playing together. Rehabilitation Supervisor Alex reports that the smaller cubs are quite feisty and hold their own with the larger cubs. "All four males tend to get excitable when they receive their mush bowls, so we have to give one bowl per cub. I recently saw the two smaller male cubs knock down #24-0385 for his mush bowl!"

Similarly to last week, the three female cubs still hide from the rehabilitation team when they enter the enclosure. The shield on the females' side of the chute was removed on May 8, so all seven bears can now interact through the grate if they choose to. That said, the rehabilitation team is in no hurry to open the chute and allow all of the cubs to interact. Mac notes that these three cubs particularly enjoy corn.

This week's weight reports for the cubs:

  • #24-0385: 7.3 kg
  • #24-0744: 4.31 kg
  • #24-0745: 4.5 kg
  • #24-0999 (Red Tag): 6.38 kg
  • #24-1000 (Blue Tag): 6.5 kg
  • #24-1054 (Pink Tag): 7.17 kg

Check out all seven of the cubs on Critter Cam!

With last week's admission of three female cubs, there are now a total of seven cubs at the Wildlife Center!

Wildlife rehabilitator Mac reports that the first two bear cubs, #24-0302 and #24-0385, continue to be rambunctious and enjoy meal times. The rehabilitation team is testing an animal-safe paint to identify the cubs until they are large enough to get their colored ear tags; they sprayed the back right leg of #24-0385 with green paint. This is particularly important as all the cubs are slowly introduced to each other.

Black bear cub peering out of a cardboard box

On May 7, the staff introduced the second pair of male bear cubs, #24-0744 and #24-0745, to the larger cubs! While significantly different in size from the larger two cubs, the smaller cubs are playing and doing well together. Wildlife rehabilitator Mac notes that the smaller cubs are still shy and hide when rehabilitators enter the enclosure.

The newest cubs, a group of three females, are currently being housed on the opposite side of Large Mammal Isolation (LMI). A recent fecal sample from the group was negative for parasites, so rehabilitators will start to slowly introduce the cubs, but will allow them to interact with each other through the connecting chute of the LMI before giving them direct access to one another. A new giant stuffed animal is also in the enclosure for the bears -- and Critter Cam viewers! -- to enjoy.

This week's weight reports for the cubs:

  • #24-0302: 8.4 kg
  • #24-0385: 6.27 kg
  • #24-0744: 3.64 kg
  • #24-0745: 3.99 kg
  • #24-0999 (Red Tag): 5.4 kg
  • #24-1000 (Blue Tag): 5.25 kg
  • #24-1054 (Pink Tag): 5.53 kg

All of the cubs have been weaned off of formula bottles and are receiving mush bowls twice a day, as well as a variety of other foods, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, and proteins. According to Mac, "They really love grapes and greens. The other day, I gave them peaches and pomegranates, which is possibly the first time they have had those fruits. Both enclosures have full water troughs that I think the bears are using and enjoying, especially as temperatures have been much warmer."

Check out all seven of the cubs on Critter Cam!

All four of the bear cubs have been busy eating, growing, and playing this week!

The more recently admitted cubs (#24-0744 and #24-0745) are now consistently eating on their own! According to wildlife rehabilitator Mac, the rehabilitation team offers "mush bowls three times per day, which the cubs chow down on almost immediately. They aren't too keen on most solid foods yet, but I saw some crunch marks in some of the carrots I offered today." These frequent feedings are proving to aid in the cubs' growth, as #24-0745 weighs 3.1kg and #24-0744 (lavender) weighs a little less at 2.7kg as of Monday, April 29. 

Two bear cubs eating out of a red bowl

The two newer cubs have been moved to the chute connecting the two sides of Large Mammal Isolation (LMI), as they aren't confident or large enough to join the two larger cubs quite yet. The rehabilitation team will need to have a good plan in place to allow the two larger cubs to eat separately from the smaller cubs until they are fully off bottles.

The two larger cubs, #24-0302 and #24-0385, are continuing to explore their enclosure in LMI and can frequently be seen playing with one another on Critter Cam. They have been particularly enjoying snuggling with their donated stuffed orangutan. As of this week, #24-0302 weighs in at 7.4kg and #24-0385, the smaller of the two, weighs 5.4kg.

The rehabilitation team is still trying to wean the largest cub off of formula bottles, and the smaller cub will likely soon be weaned to a bottle just once a day. Both cubs are each given a larger mush bowl in separate areas of the enclosure and are eating them well. Mac reports that "they have been pickier with their solid foods, but we will offer more protein items, including eggs, dog food, monkey chow, and maybe some fish."

Check out the two larger cubs on Critter Cam!

The Black Bear cubs of 2024 are growing – in size and quantity! With the recent admission of two more cubs this week, the wildlife rehabilitators at the Center are now caring for four bear cubs.

The two cubs admitted in March 2024 now live on one side of the Large Mammal Isolation (LMI) enclosure and have been exploring independently for several days. Wildlife rehabilitator Mac reports that the cubs “are still figuring out their new space and still enjoy hiding inside their little hide in the connecting chute of the LMI. They sometimes get the zoomies and chase each other around the entire LMI and up and over the big hides and ladders.”

two cubs climb on a log

Cub 24-0302 currently weighs 6.86 kg and is bottle-fed once a day; cub 24-0385 weighs 4.47 kg and is bottle-fed twice daily. The bears are both eating mush bowls and a variety of solid foods. Mac shared, “Both cubs enjoy trying new solids – they particularly like grapes and most veggies!! They are not as fond of strawberries anymore and push them aside to get to the broccoli and carrots. They love their water bowl but have not yet figured out the big water trough.”

The rehabilitators attempted to shave a small patch of hair on the back right leg of cub #24-0385 since the two cubs are getting harder to tell apart, though they will likely need to try again to make a more noticeable shaved patch.

The two newer cubs – #24-0744 (Lavender paint) and #24-0745 are still housed in a Zinger crate on the opposite side of the LMI. They both gained a small amount of weight in the days following their admission, though they are still too small to be in the larger space unsupervised. In the coming days, the staff will likely move the two cubs to the connecting chute of the LMI so that they can “meet” the larger cubs, but they likely won’t have direct access in the immediate future. According to Mac, the two new cubs are “still very timid and don’t like to bottle feed, which we attempt three times daily. We got Lavender to lap formula from a bowl, so that could be promising. The cubs do sometimes eat their mush but not reliably.”

Check out the two larger cubs on Critter Cam!

At the end of March, both male bear cubs were moved to the Large Mammal Isolation enclosure and were introduced to one another. The cubs are currently spending most of their time in a Zinger crate; during their mealtimes, the bears have been enjoying supervised playtime in one side of the Large Mammal enclosure.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor Alex noted that both cubs love to wrestle with one another, though the smaller, newer cub gets tired more quickly and prefers to take a nap shortly after drinking his bottle. The larger cub (the first of the two cubs to be admitted) uses that time to do more climbing and adventuring in the enclosure. Maintenance Technician Mathew constructed a few ladders and other climbing structures for the cubs; one of these is being put to good use!

Someone also donated two enormous stuffed animals – a sabretooth tiger and an orangutan. So far, only the orangutan has been introduced to the cubs.

As of April 8, cub #24-0302 weighed in at 5.3 kg; the second cub, #24-0385, weighs 3.12kg. Both bears have been bottle-fed twice a day and also receive mush bowls three times a day, though Alex noted that the larger cub will likely slowly be reduced to a single bottle-feeding a day after his last weigh-in.

Wildlife rehabilitation team lead Mac noted that the staff would start introducing additional solid foods into the bears’ diets as well – more fruits and vegetables. She noted, “They are both getting super into climbing instead of wrestling. The first cub likes to climb anything and everything – walls, logs, and the new ladders Mathew installed. The smaller cub is still figuring out the climbing, mainly sticking to our legs, and is starting to climb Mathew’s ladder, though he doesn’t always feel confident getting back down it.”

This week, the rehab staff will move the Zinger crate into the connecting chute between the two halves of the Large Mammal enclosure and will allow the cubs access to freely play within the chute when staff are not present.