Rabbit hunters rescue bear cub

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A bear cub discovered by two hunters in Lunenburg will have a chance at a normal life thanks to quick thinking.

The hunters, who have chosen to remain anonymous, discovered two small bear cubs when rabbit hunting on Jan. 21, according to a press release by The Wildlife Center of Virginia, located in Waynesboro.

Lee Walker, outreach director for Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), said the two hunters did exactly what they should have in the situation.

They called the VDGIF to consult with them about what to do.

“The hunters were inclined to leave the cubs there, but wanted to inform VDGIF of their location,” according to the release.

VDGIF biologists agreed to leave the cubs for the rest of the day in case the mother bear came back.

When one of the biologists went back the next day to check on the bears, one of the cubs had crawled out of the den and was “extremely cold and wet,” according to the release.

Though the biologist took the cubs and began the process of warming and rehydrating them, one of the cubs died the same day.

The remaining cub was transported to The Wildlife Center the morning of Jan. 23, where it remained until Jan. 30.

While at the center, the cub was kept in an incubator at the center’s ICU. According to the release, the bear was estimated to be about 10 days old and in good health. The cub weighed 1.01 kg when measured Sunday.

It was fed every four hours, adding up to six feedings in a 24 hour period.

VDGIF was able to find a new bear den for the cub through the Bear Collaring Project, which the organization initiated last year to monitor movements, denning habits and home ranges of wild, female bears in unstudied areas of Virginia. VDGIF has 10 collared bears which they track throughout the year, according to The Wildlife Center.

Through the project, VDGIF staff were able to identify several surrogate sow options for the cub.

The initial attempt to place the cub in a new den took place on Jan. 25 with no success; the sow did not leave the den to retrieve the cub, according to The Wildlife Center.

However, biologists placed the cub outside of a second active den on Monday afternoon, resulting in success for the cub.

“The den setup was much more ideal than the one used last week,” center officials said in the press release. “The biologist was able to sneak up behind the den, and leave the cub very close to the den opening.”

The sow sniffed the new cub, picked him up and placed him with her two cubs.

Biologists will continue to monitor the activity and will return to the den in a few weeks to assess the fostering attempt.

“The staff are thrilled with this wonderful news,” according to a post by The Wildlife Center.