Young black bears showing up emaciated across VA

Published: Apr. 24, 2014 at 4:11 AM EDT|Updated: May. 4, 2014 at 4:11 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Baby bears across the state are seemingly starving to death. Experts at the Wildlife Center of Virginia took in yet another emaciated yearling bear, Wednesday. The bear is supposed to be about 100 pounds, but it only weighed about 15 pounds.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia says they've taken in nearly a dozen skeletal-looking black bears, since spring began. These bears are drastically underweight, and dehydrated. That's because last fall's acorn crop was dismal. Dave McRuer, the veterinary director of the wildlife center, says acorns are a major food source for bears. The youngest animals used up all of their fat stores during the winter hibernation. Now, they're emaciated as spring is underway.

"This is the worst year that I've witnessed here at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, and I've been here for eight years now," said McRuer.

Older bears can withstand the lack of food better than younger bears. Yearlings showed obvious signs of starvation.

"(The bear) had a very shaggy hair coat. Most of the muscles had atrophied or shrunken," described McRuer.

The bears are fed and kept safe in two acres of natural habitat, at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. However, bears in the wild will be looking for food anywhere they can find it, including your yard.

"If that means in people's bird feeders or in dumpsters… They smell the food; they go after it," continued McRuer.

It's important not to feed bears if they come searching for food in your lawn. Call animal control, so the bears can be taken to a haven where they're revived, and then released.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia says they've been admitting bears each week, for the last couple months. The center runs completely on donations.

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