How To Let Virginia's Bears Do Their Thing This Spring

Feb 8, 2021

A bear cub checks out a log at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, which is the only facility in the state permitted to rehabilitate them.
Credit Wildlife Center of Virginia

As we get closer to springtime, both humans and black bears are eager to leave our dens for some fresh air. The Wildlife Center of Virginia has some tips in case you encounter a bear. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The staff at the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro are very familiar with black bears – they're the only facility in the state permitted to rehabilitate them, so they see upwards of 20 each year. The majority of their black bear patients are cubs. Alex Wehrung is the center's outreach coordinator.

Alex Wehrung is the center's outreach coordinator.
Credit Wildlife Center of Virginia

ALEX WEHRUNG: … typically orphaned. We don't always know the exact circumstance of their rescue, but it is likely the sow, that's the mother bear, has been hit by a car, failure to thrive, been perhaps taken by a hunter.

They take in a lot of these cubs in the spring, when the youngsters emerge with their mothers from the dens where they were born. But Wehrung warned that, just because you spot a lone bear cub, doesn't necessarily mean it's in danger.

WEHRUNG: The best advice I can give, if anyone comes across what they believe to be an orphaned bear cub, is give it some space … There is a chance that that orphaned cub is not orphaned at all. It is totally normal for a sow to leave her cubs unattended … for several hours at a time.

A rescued cub sleeps at the Center.
Credit Wildlife Center of Virginia

If the cub is still alone after a few hours, Wehrung said you should call the Department of Wildlife Resources, which will send out a team trained in bear rescue. He said you should never approach a cub or full-grown bear yourself.

WEHRUNG: Most times that bear will see you or smell you or hear you long before you know it's there … on the off chance that you do take a bear by surprise, just stop where you are, slowly back away, make yourself look big.

They're so cute! Rescued cubs at the Center sleep in their hammock.
Credit Wildlife Center of Virginia

For a better way to see some bear antics -- check out the center’s critter cams.