Black Bear yearling #18-0624

May 2, 2018
June 13, 2018
Rescue Location
Alleghany County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Former Patient
Patient photo

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On May 2, a male yearling Black Bear was admitted to the Center from Alleghany County. The bear had been seen wandering around for several days; he appeared weak and lethargic.

Dr. Ingrid examined the bear upon admission; the bear was extremely thin and virtually non-resistant to handling for the exam. The bear’s heart rate was very low and irregular; Dr. Ingrid administered atropine to increase the bear’s heart rate. Radiographs showed a concave sternum, with subsequent displacement of the bear’s trachea, esophagus, heart, and major blood vessels. The irregular shape could be due to a congenital issue or may have been caused by an early trauma in the bear’s life. There was also a fracture in the bear’s C1 vertebrae which appeared to be a recent injury. Blood work confirmed that the bear was anemic and emaciated; he weighed just 5.40 kg.

The bear was given fluids and oral electrolytes; Dr. Ingrid also placed an IV catheter in the bear’s front leg to deliver additional fluid support. Dr. Ingrid created a re-feeding plan to slowly introduce food back into the bear’s digestive system; re-feeding syndrome is a serious concern when re-introducing nutrients to a severely emaciated patient. In the week following the bear’s admission, the team offered a gradually increasing amount of a specialized nutritional support diet for animals recovering from severe injury.

The bear is eating well and appears brighter, but is not as active and feisty as a yearling bear should be. The catheter was removed on May 6. The veterinary team will continue to monitor the bear’s heart rate; the team hopes that this significant issue will improve with treatment and time, though could be a permanent defect that would prevent the bear’s recovery.

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Patient Updates

On June 13, Black Bear yearling #18-0624 was darted and sedated for a final physical exam, blood work, and weight prior to release. The bear gained even more weight during the past week and weighed in at 10.5 kg. With abundant food in the wild at this time of year, this bear should continue to be successful. The yearling was tagged in each ear with black ear tags prior to being loaded in a Zinger crate for release.

DGIF Black Bear Project Leader Jaime came to pick up the bear; she and wildlife rehabilitator Brie traveled to the release site. The bear quickly ran out of the crate, away from the humans, and, after a brief pause to get his bearings, ran off into the woods.



On May 31, the veterinary team performed a physical exam, radiographs, and blood work for Black Bear yearling #18-0624. The results showed that the bear’s sternal defect, increased heart rate, and vertebral fracture had resolved. During the past two weeks, the bear has gained weight [weighing in at 6.8 kgs on May 31] and his body condition has improved.

Based on the bear’s improvement with proper nutritional support, the veterinary staff recommended that the yearling be prepared for release; although the bear is still thin, he is in acceptable condition and resources in the wild are abundant at this time of year. The Center staff have coordinated the release with bear biologists at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; a tentative release is scheduled for the week of June 11.

During the coming week, the staff expect the bear to gain even more weight before release.

Black Bear yearling #18-0624 has improved during the past week; the wildlife rehabilitation team reports that the bear is much brighter in the Bear Pen enclosure and is eating well. The bear is scheduled for follow-up radiographs and additional diagnostics, including an electrocardiogram, on May 31. The team hopes to see improvements in the bear’s heart rate.

During the past ten days, Black Bear yearling #18-0624’s condition has stabilized, but the bear has remained quiet and has not gained much weight – he weighed 5.70 kg as of May 12.

On May 13, the rehabilitation staff moved the Black Bear yearling into the Center’s outdoor Bear Pen enclosure [BP1]. The rehabilitation staff is feeding the bear twice a day. Initially, the staff offered the bear incrementally increased amounts of wet prescription dog food [high in calories, strong-smelling, and easy to digest]; on May 15, the rehabilitation staff transitioned the bear to soft meals [a mixture of soaked dog food, finely chopped vegetables, soft fruits, and baby food].

The rehabilitation staff reports that the bear is still quiet and not very active in the outdoor enclosure. They will continue to monitor the bear at each meal and assess the bear’s attitude and appetite.