Lights, camera, action
Residents and wildlife enthusiasts now have the opportunity to witness the rehabilitation of black bear cubs first-hand.
On Monday, the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro brought black bears back into the realm of its online “Critter Cam” [http://bit.ly/1DUQ7r7].
Amanda Nicholson, the center’s director of outreach, said, “People who watch cams before are excited to see [the bears] back on cam again … They’re some of the more popular patients we have here.”
Originally started in 2011, the webcam allows viewers the chance to watch the day-to-day activities and care for patients at the center.
The three cubs featured in this year’s “Cub Cam” are estimated to be 3 months old since, as Nicholson pointed out, “most cubs are born in January.”
All three were brought to the center on different days within the month of April and are being rehabilitated for natural reintroduction.
An Edinburg resident discovered one of the cubs on his property at the beginning of April. The other two cubs were discovered in the counties of Albemarle and Bath.
While that back story might sound identical to a scenario the center faced this past February, Nicholson noted several differences in this one.
For instance, the Edinburg cub was orphaned and separated from its sow for a period longer than 24 hours.
“In terms of ‘what to do if you find a bear cub,’ everything went right this time,” Nicholson said, adding that the homeowner called the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries upon first discovering the cub.
From there, the resident let the cub go for that particular day, only to notice one day later that the cub had taken refuge under the house’s back porch.
According to Nicholson, black bear sows will typically leave a cub to lure danger away and then return to that spot within 24 hours.
“When it became clear that the cub was still by itself … they called [the department] again to get advice, and we decided altogether to bring the cub here,” Nicholson explained.
The cubs are healthy and in “good condition,” according to Nicholson. Unlike the case in February, Nicholson noted that it is probably too late in the season for these three cubs to be placed in a surrogate den.
With the Edinburg cub, Nicholson said, “[The department] was again looking for an active den to see if they could find a sow with cubs and do that same technique.”
However, Nicholson said the department could not locate a suitable den, especially for the reintroduction of three bear cubs from different sows.
“It’s the time of year when the sows and the cubs are up and out of their dens and on the move, so it’s harder to find them in a central location,” Nicholson added.
Instead, the center will look to care for the cubs and oversee how they grow up, with the idea of working with the state to reintroduce them at a to-be-determined date.
“We want to get them to the point where they are old enough to do well on their own,” Nicholson said.
Having the cameras in place to monitor the bears is one way the center can “let the bears be bears,” Nicholson explained.
So aside from providing an inside look for the public, Nicholson said, “Having the Critter Cams, in general, for the bears … it’s a really unobtrusive way that we can check on them.
“It just allows us to see how often they are eating during the day, what they are doing and how they are behaving.”
Once the bears reach a certain point in development, they will be transferred to a black bear complex within the George Washington National Forest that the center opened in 2013.
At this complex, there are three enclosures that are each a half an acre in size. Nicholson estimated at this point that it could be a month before that move occurs.
“Since we’re … in the forest, it’s a nice, secure area … where these cubs can grow up and be bears,” Nicholson added. “They will have very minimal human contact.”
While the cubs are being rehabilitated, anyone with access to WildlifeCenter.org can watch the cubs between 6 a.m. and midnight seven days a week.
In a follow-up email, Nicholson indicated that the Edinburg cub is now being referred to as “No Tag.” Meanwhile, the center has put a yellow and red tag on the other two so that rehabilitators and viewers can tell the cubs apart.
Nicholson indicated that the Critter Cam coverage will switch over to the black bear complex once that move takes place.
“For the most part, Bear Cam will be up until the bears leave here,” Nicholson said. “Whenever that may be.”
Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org