Bear Cubs Emerge from Virginia Dens

May 5, 2016

Spring is well underway, and that means baby animals are everywhere.  Sometimes they get separated from their mothers and end up at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.  That’s where Sandy Hausman met an especially charming bear cub.

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Jaime Sajecki cuddles a three-pound bear cub en route to the Black Bear Research Center at Virginia Tech for adoption.

Small cubs are as cute as teddy bears – and a lot noisier.

(purring sound)

That’s the sound they make when they’re nursing or content.  Jaime Sajecki is an expert with the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  She says this three-pound black bear, nestled in her arms, was found in a roadside ditch in Craig County.

“Her eyes are open now and her ears are open and she’s crawling a little bit, but she’s not able to really run around at this point," Sajecki says.  "That's how we know that she wouldn’t have naturally been out of the den with her mother yet, because they have to wait until those cubs are mobile enough to be able to keep up and run after mom and climb trees, and she’s really not there yet.”

Sajecki says no one knows what happened to its mother.

“If the den was disturbed, the mother might have been moving the cubs from one place to another and could have dropped this cub, and sometimes if they’re scared enough they might abandon one cub.”

Whatever the case this cub, about seven weeks old, is on its way to the Virginia Tech Black Bear Research Center where the mother of another cub, about the same age, will likely adopt her.

“The old way of fostering was the bears would get Vick’s Vaporub put on their nose, and the baby would get Vick’s Vaporub smeared all over," Sajecki recalls.  "Now we’ve realized that these females – their maternal instinct is so strong that even if they just hear the cub crying really agitated and they just want to take these cubs and put them in with their own cubs.”

If you should come across an abandoned baby bear, Sajecki suggests you wait 24 hours before calling the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, since the mother is likely to come back. 

“If the bear is still there after 24 hours, then we will get out and help the little guys out,” Sajecki says.

Once a foster cub is grown, he or she will be released into the wild to join Virginia’s already sizable population of about 17,000 black bears.