The Wildlife Center of Virginia reports a record number of bear cubs coming in for care – 19 of them.
Sandy Hausman reports on why so many baby bears are in trouble, and how the center is coping with the needs of so many animals.
Most bear cubs are born in mid-January, and by February of this year animal rehabber Kelsey Pleasants says the Wildlife Center was caring for several.
“A few of the cubs came in with their eyes still closed, so that we estimate they were about ten days old,” she recalls.
Her colleague, Shannon Mazurovsky, says it’s increasingly common for cubs to be orphaned.
“We had at least two that were orphaned because their mom was hit by a car. We’ve had moms unfortunately be shot,” she explains. “Sometimes we don’t know what happened to the mom and people just find a cub there and the game department will bring them to us.”
The challenge is keeping these growing bears fed.
“The amount of formula that we had to go through here was just astronomical,” Pleasants says. “Feeding them now – the amount that they’re eating is almost 200 pounds a day.”
So they organized a Cub Grub campaign – accepting donations of acorns, nuts and fresh produce along with cash so they can buy food as needed. They quickly surpassed their goal of $4,800 – raising $14,000 – enough to keep the bears fed through the winter and fat enough for release in the spring.
But shouldn’t bears be hibernating in the winter? Not these guys. With plenty of food and fun, they have little time for sleep. “When they’re younger – kind of playing with each other, wrestling and roughhousing, and now they can climb, they climb up and down trees," Kelsey Pleasants explains. "We have tire swings out there for them. We have a tire that bridge that they love to get on.”
To prevent the bears from getting too comfortable with people the Wildlife Center limits the number who take care of cubs, and their contact is minimal. They even deliver food in an electric vehicle so the animals don’t associate cars with meal time, and they discourage the public from having contact with bears by keeping your trash somewhere locked up if you’re in a wooded area, keeping your grill clean and not feeding pets outside.
If you should see a cub, a sick or injured adult, she adds, call the Wildlife Center in Waynsboro at 540-942-9453 or the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources: 1-855-571-9003.