Sixteen black bear cubs are climbing their way over, under and across the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
“They’re swinging on crate doors, climbing ropes, just having a great time,” says Amanda Nicholson, the director of outreach.
The center has never seen a bear cub season like this before.
“We have, no doubt whatsoever, that all records are going to fall very loudly this year,” says Ed Clark, the president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. “The black bear population in Virginia is expanding very, very rapidly.”
Bear biologists say last season the acorn crop wasn’t plentiful, so many of the sows didn’t have cubs.
“This past winter, however, was a very good mast crop, so a lot of the sows that forewent the cubbing season in 2011, 2012, ended up having cubs this past winter,” says Nicholson.
Some of the cubs are injured while others are orphans. But with medical attention and special bear formula and food, the cubs are now thriving.
“The weights are really the indicators there that let us know rehabbers are doing great,” Nicholson says. “Bears are just getting bigger and more wild as well.”
The staff strictly limits its interaction with the cubs.
“You don’t want to release a bear into the wild that associates people with food… comfort or play time,” says Amber Dedrich, a certified wildlife rehabilitator.
But critter cams give a closer look into the makeshift “bear dens.”
“They roll around on the ground, wrestle with each other and climb on logs,” says Dedrich.
The center is preparing for more cubs by partnering with Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to build two new enclosures, including an outdoor forested yard with a double fence.
“We are really anxious to get new facilities open and operating because a lot more bears [are] coming in and [we] anticipate more any day now,” says Clark.
When the cubs are old enough and able to survive on their own, they’ll be released from cub rehab into the wild, probably sometime this fall.
Click here to check out what the baby bears are doing now!