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Virginia Bear Update #2, Transport

Bear in hay bed

The last post about Virginia ended with us needing to make a plan to get Virginia off the cliff. We gathered our bear crate out of storage and began planning. Numerous ( I think 20) people began working on all the details needed.

Whiteboard with details about crating and moving Virginia bear
I love using the dry erase board for planning. However, I am not a good drawer and have very messy handwriting. This is from one of our final planning sessions on the lead-up plan and who would be in what role.

My notes outline for this project is 6 pages long and it’s called CLIFF CATCH CRATE. (I like alliteration). In general, the points below were those to focus on.

  • crate security and functionality
  • securing crate in position
  • getting Virginia into crate
  • moving from cliff to house
  • releasing in house
  • roles for people, safety and equipment needs
Bear crate with bear inside
Here’s our crate (with Virginia inside)

First, we made sure our crate was operational. Andrew from our Exhibits Team made some tweaks (added a handle on the top of the guillotine door for easier lifting and changed around some of the locking bolts for easier movement). Janine and Kate worked on effectively securing the crate in positions wherever needed and gathered the needed equipment (i.e. ratchet straps, wheel chocks, ropes and pulley…). A team of staff were put on-call to lift the crate (over 500 pounds to be moved).

The picture below is a view of the upper level of the bear yard– or “cliff”area. The crate secures to the vestibule area where the down arrow is pointing. There’s a short slide gate that is opened and in theory the bear walks right in. (and she did).

Red arrows indicating potential issues while moving bear off cliff face

The planning took hours and hours for many people. And all the hard work paid off. Once all equipment was in position and set, doors were opened and Virginia pretty much walked right in. The back wall of the crate was slathered in peanut butter and syrup. She seemed to contently focus on that as the crate was secured for the next stage.

A team of Museum staff delicately maneuvered the crate from its tight awkward position to the other side of the tree. After-which, a Bobcat (the name for the “tractor-like” vehicle) would do the rest.

Group of Museum employees lifting bear crate
Our primary lifters were from our Facilities and Outdoor Landscape Environments teams
Tractor like construction equipment called a Bobcat lifts bear crate
Aaron, with our Facilities Director Keith, assured the crate was secured to the Bobcat.

Tractor like construction equipment called a Bobcat lifts bear crate

Tractor like construction equipment called a Bobcat lifts bear crate
Jim, our OLE Director, assured a smooth drive down to the bear house.

Once down at the bear house, it was time to offload her.

Tractor like construction equipment called a Bobcat lifts bear crate

It was easy to move the crate into the bear house. We then secured it in position and, once ready, opened the gate and out she came. The entire process took 39 minutes, from start up until release into the house. It couldn’t have gone smoother!

Bear looking at groud
Virginia soon after release into the house.

So, transport to the bear house complete. Flash-forward now to getting her to the Vet School for her care. In general, it was the same plan, however, there were a few more details to add to the list

  • getting her in the crate without the use of food (no food before sedation)
  • making sure the crate fit in the transport van
  • moving the crate out of the van at NCSU

All issues were solved, with similar diligence and effectiveness.

Bear crate being loaded into back of van
Janine and Aaron working with Jim to get the crate into the van

And, once at the Vet School, a massive team was awaiting there to offload and transport Virginia for her care.

Tractor like construction equipment called a Bobcat lifts bear crate

Tractor like construction equipment called a Bobcat lifts bear crate

Next post we’ll talk about this “massive team” of people. But before we end today, here are some details about the crate. Dimensions, openings, number of handles, types of doors, etc., were all shared with the team at the Vet School so they could prepare on their end.

Red arrows pointing to points of interest on bear crate