On Friday, January 23rd, VDGIF biologists were notified of three very small bear cubs that were removed from a wild den in Shenandoah County that day by a citizen. The person who found and removed the cubs thought they had been abandoned.
VDGIF strongly discourages people from picking up wildlife. If there is any question about cubs, fawns, or other wildlife, we ask that people call the nearest VDGIF office. Many times when people find and pick up a lone fawn or bear cub they are actually taking the animals away from their mother who is hiding nearby.
Due to the conditions and timing, returning them to their original den site was not an option. The cubs were taken to the Wildlife Center of Virginia where they were given food, fluids, and checkups.
The three healthy male cubs all weighed approximately 1.5 pounds; none had their eyes or ears open yet and were believed to be only a few weeks old. In order to give them the best chance at a survival, VDGIF biologists investigated a den site in Southside Virginia coincidentally found by a quail hunter on Saturday, January 24th. The den proved to be active with a sow and cubs. The three orphans were taken to the den site from the WCV on Tuesday, January 27th. The sow partially emerged from the den and the cubs were left near the opening. Within a minute, the sow took each cub into the den and biologists promptly left the area so she would not be nervous and leave the den.
Wild fostering is a common and successful practice when the option exists. Sows with cubs will readily accept other young cubs early in the year while she is still in the den nursing cubs of her own. Wild bears raising orphan cubs (over human rearing) is the most preferred option in order to meet our very important bear program goal to “Keeping Bears Wild.”
Photos courtesy of Wildlife Center of Virginia. Den site photo showing sow taken by quail hunter.