Black Bear yearling #19-0097

February 9, 2019
April 4, 2019
Rescue Location
Shenandoah County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Very thin, mange
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On the evening of February 9, a yearling Black Bear was admitted to the Wildlife Center as patient #19-0097. The female bear was found in a cornfield in Shenandoah County and was having a difficult time walking. Two DGIF biologists were able to contain the bear and transported her to the Wildlife Center.

Dr. Karra, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the bear when she arrived. At admission, the yearling was quiet and curled up in a ball in the back of her transport crate. She was very thin and weighed in at only 4.6 kg. Dr. Karra reported that the bear had missing fur around her eyes and on her muzzle, and also had crusty skin on her chest and stomach. The bear was very dehydrated and had several abrasions on the bottom of her feet; her teeth had significant wear for a one-year-old bear, damage likely sustained through inappropriate chewing behavior (likely in the process of seeking food).

Radiographs were within normal limits with the exception of showing one mildly misshapen vertebrae, which Dr. Karra believes is congenital and not causing any significant issues. A skin scraping revealed live sarcoptes mites (the mite responsible for sarcoptic mange).

The bear was treated with ivermectin for her mange, given fluid and vitamin B, and moved into isolation in a Zinger crate. She was offered a balanced electrolyte and dextrose solution (mixed with a bit of baby food to entice her) to support her gastrointestinal system and drank it readily.

It’s likely that the bear has been orphaned for an extended period of time and was not able to find adequate nutrition, though a congenital abnormality cannot be ruled out. The bear is not only in poor body condition, but also appears to be musculoskeletally stunted. The bear’s prognosis is guarded to poor.

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Patient Updates

Black Bear yearling #19-0097 has been doing well during the past month – the wounds on the bear’s paws have slowly been healing. By the end of February, the bear no longer needed bandages on her paws; her February skin-scraping was also negative for mange mites.

Each day, the rehabilitation staff have attempted to glimpse the bear’s paws; the bear has been eating well and walking and climbing normally around her enclosure. Today, the staff plan on attempting to live-trap the bear so that they can check her paws more closely, weigh her, and hopefully move her to the transition yard of yard #1 in the Black Bear Complex.

If all goes well, the yearling will be introduced to the other five yearlings in yard #1 this week; they’ll then be released next month.

On the afternoon of February 14, the veterinary team sedated Black Bear yearling #19-0097 to examine her paws. The abrasions on her paw pads (first noted during the admission examination) had worsened during the past several days while the bear was housed in a crate. It’s possible the bear had suffered some mild frostbite on her paws in the wild and the dead skin is now sloughing off.

The veterinary team (comprised of six veterinary students under the supervision of veterinary intern Dr. Karra) worked quickly to debride and clean the ulcers on all four of the bear’s paws. Dr. Karra noted that the ulcers on the front paws were worse than those on the hind paws. Once the wounds were cleaned, the team sutured specialized gel bandages to each toe and central pad to keep the wounds moist as they heal. The paws were then wrapped with cotton gauze and vet wrap; each bandage was covered with duct tape to keep them dry and intact. Dr. Karra added a more abrasive tape to bottom of the duct tape bandages, which will give the bear more traction as she walks (since the duct tape alone would be too slippery).

The substrate in the Zinger crate is not ideal long-term for allowing these skin wounds to heal; the concrete flooring covered with straw bedding in the Large Mammal Isolation (LMI) enclosure is more appropriate. However, there is a risk that the bear will try to climb if housed freely in an LMI enclosure; for now, the yearling is housed in a Zinger crate within the second LMI enclosure, so the transition from the crate to the larger space will be easy, once the bear is ready. Bear #19-0097’s new neighbor is Black Bear #19-0057; the two bears will be able to see each other, but will be separated by the chute and will not come in contact with one another.

Bear #19-0097 will need doses of pain medication and antibiotics every three days; on February 17, the team will sedate the bear again to administer medications and change the bandages. They will repeat this process every three days until the wounds have healed enough to remove the bandages entirely. Dr. Karra says the wounds were showing signs of healing before bandages, so she anticipates they should be well-healed enough after a week of being bandaged.

Before moving her to the LMI enclosure, the veterinary team weighed the bear; she weighed 6.5 kgs – up from 4.6 kgs at admission. The veterinary team will perform another skin scraping by February 23 to determine if mites are still present.