Bear’s death caused by dart

Published 12:29 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

The death of a bear after it was rescued from the median of a highway in Suffolk earlier this month was caused by a puncture in its small intestine from the tranquilizer dart used to capture it, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Two bear cubs were tranquilized in the median of U.S. Route 58 on Oct. 17 after their mother was found dead by the side of the road, apparently struck by a vehicle.

The male cubs were transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, where they were pronounced to be malnourished but otherwise in good condition.

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However, the puncture wound in the bear’s small intestine went undetected, and it died two days after its arrival at the wildlife center.

“Any time an animal is tranquilized, there is the potential for injury and death during the immobilizing or recovery periods or due to the drugs themselves,” said Julia Dixon, a spokeswoman for the game department. “In this case, with cubs in a tree in the median of a four-lane highway during rush hour, darting was deemed the most appropriate method of immobilization in order to remove the animals from that situation.”

The other cub has been closely monitored since its sibling’s death, Dixon said. Despite taking a 40-foot tumble from a tree limb during its rescue, it has not suffered the same fate.

“While the Wildlife Center of Virginia will continue to work towards the ultimate release of the remaining cub, the death of the second cub reminds us that despite our best efforts at immobilization, treatment, and rehabilitation, there are a multitude of variables that must be dealt with when working with wildlife and some are insurmountable,” Dixon said.

The wildlife center is setting up a Critter Cam on its website so the public can view the remaining bear cub.

This week, the remaining cub received a pumpkin as an enrichment activity. His daily menu also includes birdseed, apples, acorns, dog food, suet, broccoli, carrots, mixed nuts, blackberries and strawberries.

For more information and updates on the remaining cub, visit