An orphaned black bear cub has been placed with a substitute mother this week after being saved by a dog and brought to safety.
The rescue effort unfolded after the dog turned up February 5 at its owner’s home in Washington County, Virginia, with a cub in its mouth, said Bill Bassinger, wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The male cub wasn’t hurt by the dog, he added.
The cub was taken to the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, where a student veterinarian determined that he weighed a little over one pound and estimated that he was 2 to 3 weeks old. He was described as bright, alert and “vocalizing readily.”
Wildlife center staff gave him constant care and bottle feeding, according to the center’s website said.
The center typically cares for injured or orphaned bears and then resettles them with their own species. The center tracks adult female bears with monitoring collars for this purpose, Bassinger said. Conservation officers use collars to locate the bears, then listen for cubs making sounds in their dens, the center’s website says. If they find a good match, staff members place orphaned cubs outside the dens, and mother bears usually adopt them as their own, Bassinger and experts said.
“The mothering instinct is just very strong in most animals,” Bassinger told the Wytheville Enterprise. “Generally, most females will take the young back, even after it has been handled by humans.”
The center said that on Wednesday the cub was placed with a new mother, who was nursing three cubs of her own.