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Blog Animals

Virginia Bear Update #1

Virginia looking up

I mentioned at the end of November that we would have a series of posts about Virginia’s health condition, her recent challenges, and her trip offsite for diagnostics.

I’ll set the stage today for what’s to come in the blog posts

  • BACKGROUND: how did we get to today.
  • TRANSPORT: how do you get a bear that won’t come down the cliff to the house, and then, how do you get her offsite for her medical appointment.
  • PEOPLE: just how many people were involved in all this “Virginia bear stuff”
  • DIAGNOSTICS: what tests have been done…and what did we learn.
  • TREATMENTS: look at Virginia’s list of medicines and treatments.

I remember Virginia, unnamed at the time, arriving in our parking lot in the morning (June 2, 2005). The wildlife official parked his pick-up truck, got out, walked to the bed of the truck right behind the driver’s seat, and lifted up a crate—one the size we used to transport rabbits in. I was (we were) so excited to have a new bear cub.

With the revamping of the bear habitat and the opening of our new Explore the Wild exhibit area soon, Virginia, at 15 pounds and still on a bottle, spent a bit of time in Carolina Wildlife.

Newspaper clipping of visitors look at young bear

Flash forward about 11 years and we noticed Virginia regularly limping and stiff, mostly in her front legs. It didn’t stop her from doing anything, but it was noticeable. Radiographs indicated extensive osteoarthritis, mostly in many parts of her front legs (left seemed to be the worst). We started a variety of medicines, supplements, and other treatments to help manage her condition.

Bear carrying watermelon in mouth

All seemed usual for Virginia until this summer when she would not walk down the path from the cliff face to the main bear yard. There’s plenty of space on the cliff top for her, but this was an unusual pattern. In early fall (technically late summer) we started to coax her down the cliff ramp, with peanut butter, marshmallows, and syrup…items that typically work to her encourage her to come down. However, she would come to the top of the ramp and stop.

Bear on cliff looking down

This is when we knew she would not walk down on her own, and we began planning how to get her to the bear house…and offsite for more tests.

Check back in soon for update #2.