Black Bear yearling #13-0420

April 13, 2013
July 30, 2013
Rescue Location
Rappahannock County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Thin, dehyrated, mangy
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On April 11, homeowners in Rappahannock County noticed a small Black Bear yearling hanging around their property. The yearling was quite small and appeared to be in poor condition. When the yearling was spotted again on Saturday, April 13, the homeowners called the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. A biologist responded to the scene. The yearling was very underweight, but managed to climb a tree to evade capture; the biologist darted the bear out of the tree and transported it to the Wildlife Center.

Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the male yearling upon arrival. The bear was very thin, very dehydrated, and appeared to have mange. Dr. Dana anesthetized the bear and performed a physical examination, blood work, and radiographs. Radiographs revealed slightly distended intestines; Dr. Dana further investigated by performing a an abdominal ultrasound and noted a distended gallbladder. The bear had many ticks, and Dr. Dana noted hair loss and crusty skin over the bear’s muzzle, neck, abdomen, and thighs. A skin-scraping was performed to look for mange-causing mites, but none was found. Despite the lack of mites on the skin-scraping, the lesions strongly looked and smelled like mange, so Dr. Dana injected the bear with ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication. A dermatophyte test medium (DTM) was also set-up; this diagnostic test specifically cultures for the ringworm fungus.

In addition, Dr. Dana also noted that the bear’s tongue had the appearance of a “Turkish towel”; that is, the tongue was shriveled and rough in appearance. The bear’s tongue also had an accumulation of white plaque, likely due to the severe dehydration. Dr. Dana administered subcutaneous fluids to the bear while it was sedated. Once all treatments were administered, the team set the bear up in a sturdy enclosure in the Center’s holding room. The bear weighed in at 11.90 kgs.

The following day the bear was quiet, yet alert. While the bear has not yet shown an interest in food, he has been very thirsty. The team will soon move the yearling to Bear Pen 3, in the Center’s outdoor bear pen enclosure. The bear will likely require additional treatments for mange in the weeks to come.

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Patient Updates

Black Bear yearling #13-0420 was darted and sedated this morning, then was placed into a culvert trap on the back of the DGIF biologist’s truck. The bear was weighed prior to departing the Wildlife Center; the yearling weighed in at 59.2 kg!  The bear was 11.9 kg upon admission in April 2013.

Here’s a remarkable comparison that illustrates the yearling’s progress:

Shortly after admission:

Final dental check-up:

Release Update

The Black Bear yearling release on July 30 was a great success. DGIF biologist Katie picked up the bear – and also Great Horned Owlet #13-1244 – for release!

Katie writes, “Everything went great yesterday! [The yearling] went out of the trap well and just trotted along a path between two cutover sites and was headed for a stand of hardwoods and a nice creek bottom. He did pause for a short stop in a blackberry thicket then continued on into the hardwoods.”

Black Bear yearling #13-0420 has been eating well over the past week. The rehabilitation staff transitioned the bear to a diet of regular, hard food after the positive check-up on July 18.

Dr. Dave contacted the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to notify them that the bear was soon ready for release. A DGIF biologist is scheduled to pick up the yearling on the morning of Tuesday, July 30; the bear will be released in the southern part of Virginia.

On the morning of July 18, Dr. Rich darted Black Bear #13-0420 to sedate him for a dental examination. Once the bear was safely unconscious, Drs. Rich and Kristin, along with students Cathryn and Jess, removed the yearling from the bear pen and conducted the examination outside.

Dr. Rich inserted a bite-blocker into the bear’s mouth [a piece of wood], and was pleased to see a very nicely healed tooth socket. Everything has healed beautifully over the past three weeks. The yearling is in great body condition and has a beautiful coat of hair.

Dr. Dave sent several photos to Dr. Jennifer Tjepkema and Dr. Rachel Hubbard for an update and consultation. Dr. Jennifer emailed back and was thrilled with the healing progress post-surgery. Starting Friday, July 19, the rehab staff will plan to feed a regular, hard bear diet to the yearling for the next week. If all goes well, the bear should be able to be released in late July or early August.

The rehabilitation staff report that Black Bear yearling #13-0420 has been eating well over the past week. The yearling will be sedated and examined on Thursday, July 18.

On the morning of Saturday, June 29, Drs. Tjepkema and Hubbard arrived at the Wildlife Center to assess the molar of Black Bear yearling #13-0420. The Center’s three veterinarians – Drs. Dave, Rich, and Dana – were all present at the Wildlife Center.

Shortly after the visiting doctors arrived, the yearling was darted and, once fully sedated, was brought down into the hospital. Drs. Tjepkema and Hubbard carefully examined the bear’s teeth and noted gum disease around the bear’s injured tooth. Radiographs were taken; the two doctors suspected an abnormality with one of the tooth’s roots, though it was difficult to definitively interpret. Removing the bear’s molar would be a lengthy and difficult procedure, but in the end, the team decided that this would be the best course of action for the bear. Treatment for a similar injury in a dog would likely be different – but when dealing with a wild animal that will be released [and unavailable for re-checks], different strategies are often applied!

The tooth-removal surgery took 90 minutes. Drs. Tjepkema and Hubbard drilled the tooth into several sections so that the four roots of the tooth could be more easily removed. This enabled them to successfully remove the whole tooth without fracturing off the roots – which would have required surgical removal of the surrounding bone so that the tooth roots could be retrieved. Once the entire tooth was removed, the team was able to see that the bear’s molar was dead and had a tooth root abscess.

Dr. Rich suspects that the yearling was at the height of an infection of the tooth root in May when the bear stopped eating for several days. When the tooth died, the bear likely stopped feeling pain, and began to eat a bit more. While that made some of the bear’s symptoms harder to interpret, had the veterinary team not persisted in fully assessing the tooth, the abscess would have led to bone destruction and more tooth and mouth problems.

After Saturday’s surgery, the bear is recovering in the Center’s bear pen. The rehabilitation staff will provide a soft diet for the yearling and will carefully monitor the bear’s food intake. In mid-July, the bear will be sedated again for an oral check-up.

The Wildlife Center would like to thank Dr. Jennifer Tjepkema and Dr. Rachel Hubbard for generously donating their skills and time to help Black Bear #13-0420 return to the wild!

Black Bear yearling #13-0420 tooth removal

On Saturday, June 29, two doctors will be coming to the Wildlife Center of Virginia to assess the tooth of Black Bear yearling #13-0420. Dr. Jennifer Tjepkema of Anderson’s Corner Animal Hospital [Toano, Virginia] will be traveling to the Center with human dentist specialist Dr. Rachel Hubbard of Williamsburg Family Dentistry. Both doctors will be bringing a variety of specialized equipment with them so that they can have their tools at the ready when they determine the best course of action for the bear yearling [possibly including an extraction]. Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center’s veterinary director, and Dr. Rich Sim, the Center’s veterinary fellow, will be at the Center to provide anesthesia and assistance with the bear’s dental work.

After a period of observation and an additional weight-check, the veterinary staff believe that the fractured tooth of Black Bear yearling #13-0420 is bothering the bear. While it’s difficult to tell exactly how much the bear is eating, it appears as though the bear is having a more difficult time with hard foods. The bear has also lost several kilograms.

Removing a bear’s molar is a complicated task; the veterinary team has been contacting several different veterinary dentists to see if anyone is able to assist with the surgery. This type of tooth removal is typically done by specialists; the Center would need a specialist who is willing to come to the Center with his or her equipment, since the bear can’t be easily transported out of Waynesboro.

Each Friday, the veterinary team has been performing a visual check of Black Bear yearling #13-0420. The bear has been putting on weight and his hair coat is growing in well.

During the week of May 20, the rehabilitation staff noted that the bear did not eat his usual amount of food – there was a three-day period when the bear didn’t each much at all. Drs. Rich and Dana decided to do a full work-up on the bear on May 23 to assess the bear’s condition and see if any problems could be diagnosed.

Once the bear was sedated, it was carried down to the Center’s hospital for a physical exam. The entire team was pleased to note that the bear weighed 29.50 kgs, which was a dramatic improvement from the 11.90 kgs the bear weighed upon admission.

A careful physical examination revealed only one potential problem:  a fractured tooth. One of the bear’s upper molars appeared to have a “slab fracture” – a length-wise crack in the tooth. Dr. Rich was not entirely convinced that this was the cause of the bear not eating – while it could be a source of pain, the tooth was not loose, nor were the bear’s gums inflamed.

Blood work was also performed on the bear; results indicated a high white blood cell count, which could indicate an infection. The team returned the yearling to Bear Pen 3 and prescribed a soft diet throughout the weekend of May 25.

On May 28, Dr. Rich sedated the yearling again to perform repeat blood work and an additional physical exam. Blood work results revealed that the bear’s white blood cell count was once again within normal limits. During the four days in between examinations, the bear gained an additional 4.0 kgs.

At this point, Dr. Rich is recommending that the bear once again be placed on a diet of hard foods to see if he will eat. If the bear doesn’t eat – this likely indicates that the tooth is causing it some pain and might need to be extracted. The staff will continue to monitor the bear closely over the next few days.

Black Bear yearling #13-0420 continues to do well in Bear Pen 3.    The yearling received its final dose of anti-parasitic medication [in a strawberry!] on May 6.

The veterinary team check on the bear once a week to note any changes in hair coat and body condition. So far, Dr. Rich is pleased with bear’s improved appearance. Once the staff feel as though the bear has put on an appropriate amount of weight for its age, release will be considered.

Black Bear yearling #13-0420 has been continuing to improve each day. On April 22, the bear was sedated for a thorough physical examination so that the veterinary team could fully assess the bear’s hydration and nutritional status. Dr. Dana was pleased to see the bear’s tongue was back to normal, and its hydration status was much improved. While the yearling is still thin, the bear is now eating solid, regular meals. The bear currently weighs in at 14.40 kgs – about six pounds more than it did at admission.

Several areas of crusting and hair loss from the mange were still noted on the bear’s thighs, abdomen, shoulders, and face. An additional dose of an anti-parasitic medication is scheduled for April 29. The team moved the yearling to Bear Pen 3 before the bear woke up.

Black Bear yearling #13-0420 is slowly improving and has gained a little weight. The rehab staff report that the bear is currently eating a diet of “A/D soup” – a moistened canned food designed for dogs or cats that are recovering from serious illness, accident, or injury. The staff will offer additional soft foods today.

Additional blood work revealed that the bear was slightly anemic and had low levels of protein in its blood – something that is likely due from the bear’s poor nutritional state. The yearling will continue living in the Center’s holding room for several more days, until additional improvements are noted.