Reminder from wildlife experts: If you see a bear cub, leave it alone

Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 5:42 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

It's springtime and that means it's time of year when black bear cubs and their mothers leave their winter dens and start exploring the landscape to search for any available food resources.

It's a time of year when bear cubs frequently become separated from their mothers for short periods of time.

So wildlife biologists want people to remember if you see a bear cub alone, in almost all instances, no intervention is necessary and you should leave it alone.

The recent

, now being treated in Waynesboro, was an exception, because their mother was killed in a crash. A bear cub that has been orphaned is a very different scenario.

In the vast majority of situations, when a mother bear perceives a threat — whether that's a barking dog, people in the area, or otherwise — she will often "tree" her cubs. Black bear cubs are adept climbers from a very young age, scampering high into tree tops to await guidance from their mother on when it's safe to come down.

While the cubs are in the trees, it's not uncommon for the mother bear to leave the area and circle back periodically to check for when she feels the area is secure.

So if you see cubs in a tree and no mother bear, you should leave the area immediately.

The mother often will return at night and call the cubs back down when she feels threats are gone.

Keeping the area free of disturbance by humans, pets, or other sources is a helpful way for the bear to return and collect her cubs.

It's also not uncommon, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, for black bear cubs and their mother to return to their den, especially during severe weather.

Hikers, hunters, or other people exploring the outdoors may come across an occupied den, either in the winter or early spring. If you do, always leave the site undisturbed.

The mother bear may leave the den if startled by someone approaching, so if there are cubs there, do not handle or take them from the den. Leave immediately, and the mother will return once the threat (you) is gone.

The VDGIF also says it's a good reminder to keep dogs on a leash while hiking, so that they don't spook a bear from a den or attempt to pick up cubs.

If a bear cub is on your property, do not try to handle or capture it. If it's visibly injured, lethargic, or has been in the same area for more than 12 hours, call the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Wildlife Conflict Helpline, toll free at 1-855-571-9003 or if after normal business hours, your local sheriff’s office or police department's non-emergency line.

Also remember, while bears come out of hibernation in April and May, that it's common for them to cross over major roads in the Shenandoah Valley, so if you're driving through a heavily wooded area or outside of the national forest or the national park, it is important to slow down and be on the lookout for wildlife.

"They can be active at any point of the day. but they're most active at dawn and dusk. so those are also really good times as you're driving to keep an extra cautious eye out for any animals that are crossing the road," Amanda Nicholson, Director of Outreach for the Wildlife Center, previously told WHSV.

She added that the most common mistake people make when they come across a bear cub or any baby wild animal is taking the animal home.

Nicholson said that taking a wild animal home can seriously damage their ability to survive in the wild, which is why it is important to keep your distance and call for help.

"In the case of bear cubs, we don't want them getting used to a number of different people, so we want to get them to the professionals that can help them return to the wild eventually," said Nicholson.

If you do believe a bear cub is orphaned or is in need of assistance, do not approach the animal. Instead, call the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries or the Wildlife Center for help.

You can reach the Wildlife Center at 540-942-9453 and can learn more about any bear cubs they've taken in