For the bears

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A member of the veterinary team at The Wildlife Center of Virginia checks on one of the orphaned bear cubs that were rescued Monday after their mother was struck and killed by a vehicle on Route 58. The cubs arrived at the center in Waynesboro Tuesday to be examined and rehabilitated.

Orphaned cubs examined at their new home

Two bear cubs that were orphaned when their mother died after she was struck by a vehicle Monday have made their way to their new temporary home.

The cubs arrived at The Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro Tuesday morning after being rescued from a median on U.S. Route 58 the day before.

“They are doing fine,” said Dr. Dave McRuer, the director of veterinary services at The Wildlife Center. “They’re healthy other than the fact that they are small.”

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The cubs, which are both male, were most likely born in late spring and should weigh about 40 pounds, but they are closer to 20 pounds, he said.

The cubs were rescued Monday after Suffolk Police Department received reports of a dead bear and wandering cubs on Route 58 westbound between the landfill and the downtown exit.

The mother bear apparently died after being struck by a vehicle, according to the city, although they never received a report of such an accident.

The cubs were in trees in the median of the highway when workers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries arrived. The game department workers shot the cubs with tranquilizers and transported them to The Wildlife Center.

Upon the cubs’ arrival, the center’s veterinary team performed physical examinations on the cubs, drew blood for diagnostic tests, did skin scraping tests to check for mites and took radiographs.

The cubs weigh about 21 and 23 pounds.

“These cubs are small for their age,” McRuer said. “However, the sow that was hit was small as well, so it might be they are small by genetics.”

However, he said, it is also possible all of the bears were malnourished.

McRuer said the 21-pound bear is the weaker of the two.

“You can feel his ribs and his spine. He doesn’t have a lot of muscle on him,” he said. “He definitely needs more food.”

Other than their weight, McRuer said, the bears are in good condition and have healthy coats.

The center’s objective now is to help the cubs gain weight.

“We’ll pack the pounds on these little guys,” McRuer said. “Once they have gained a significant amount of weight, they’ll be released back into the wild in Suffolk.”

He said they don’t know how much weight they need to gain yet, and the situation is complicated by the approaching winter.

McRuer said it is impossible to know how the bears will react when winter hits. They might sleep most of the time and only eat occasionally, which will slow their weight gain.

However, he said, he thinks they will be at the center for several months before being released.

“The best thing that anybody can do is to get them big enough, so they have a good store of energy, and they can be released,” McRuer said.