Run of the Town

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

Not one but two bear cubs are presently hang­ing around the town of Wash­ing­ton, one of the pair spot­ted dur­ing the lunch hour on Tues­day hap­pily munch­ing on fallen ap­ples near the cor­ner of War­ren Av­enue and Gay Street be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing over the Mid­dle Street Gallery fence.

There’s been no sign of the cubs’ mother, ac­cord­ing to a main­te­nance worker at the Inn at Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton.

Since 2016, De­part­ment of Game and In­land Fish­eries (DGIF) bi­ol­o­gists have been ra­dio-col­lar­ing adult fe­male bears in Vir­ginia. Data ac­quired through this project con­tin­ues to pro­vide in­sights into the move­ments, den­ning habits, and home ranges of wild, fe­male bears in Vir­ginia.

Ad­di­tion­ally, these fe­male bears are suc­cess­fully be­ing used as sur­ro­gate moth­ers for or­phaned black bear cubs. There are cur­rently eight adult fe­males fit­ted with GPS ra­dio-col­lars pri­mar­ily in south cen­tral coun­ties of Ap­po­mat­tox, Buck­ing­ham and Pitt­syl­va­nia.

GPS ra­dio-col­lars are linked to satel­lites that trans­mit lo­ca­tion data to the bi­ol­o­gists. Four of these fe­males cur­rently have ap­prox­i­mately 10 month old cubs with them and three to four are ex­pected to have cubs this win­ter.

Us­ing wild fe­male bears as sur­ro­gate moth­ers for or­phan cubs has been a suc­cess­ful prac­tice in Vir­ginia. Fe­male bears are ex­cel­lent moth­ers and will read­ily raise or­phan cubs.

Each fe­male bear will be vis­ited by DGIF bi­ol­o­gists in her win­ter den, and fe­males who have given birth to cubs will act as sur­ro­gate moth­ers and be given an ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber of or­phan cubs de­pend­ing on the sur­ro­gate’s con­di­tion, age, and the num­ber of nat­u­ral cubs al­ready present.

The project is ex­pected to con­tinue for the fore­see­able fu­ture. De­ploy­ment of the ra­dio­col­lars will be ro­tated pe­ri­od­i­cally through­out the state so that no one lo­ca­tion or fe­male bear will ac­quire or­phan cubs over an ex­tended pe­riod of time.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we have lost eight fe­males through hunter har­vests, a farmer kill and a sus­pected poach­ing event,” says DGIF. “We hope that each of the re­main­ing ra­dio-col­lared bears and oth­ers col­lared in sub­se­quent years will pro­vide sev­eral years of ser­vice to the De­part­ment’s bear project.

Visit www.dgif.vir­ginia.gov/wildlife/bear to view in­for­ma­tion rang­ing from gen­eral bear facts, how-to videos and in­for­ma­tion on trash can retrofitting and elec­tric fenc­ing, as well as tips for hun­ters and other use­ful links.

To re­port wildlife crime, call 1-800237-5712.

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