Florida Bear Hunt – orphaned cubs?

What will happen to the orphan cubs who lost their mothers during the recent black bear hunt in Florida?

Many people have been calling with this question.

Here are some answers that may make you feel a little bit better…

  • YES, our facility is licensed to rehabilitate black bear cubs, but we can only take cubs brought to us by Wildlife Authorities
  • YES, there were lactating females (sows) killed in the hunt
  • Were there pregnant females killed in the hunt?
    • Technically NO
    • There were probably females killed that mated over the summer, however, bears have delayed implantation meaning that the blastocysts remain dormant and do not develop into embryos and implant in the uterus until November. This ensures that the young are born while in the den over the winter and emerge in the spring when food is abundant
    • If a female bear does not have sufficient body condition or the environment is not favorable to raise offspring, the blastocysts will be absorbed and no pregnancy will result
  • Do the cubs left behind need our help or intervention….NO……why?
    • All black bear cubs are born in January & early February, making them about 9 months old at the time of the hunt
    • Although cubs will stay with their mother until their second summer, by 7 months of age they are typically weaned, although they may continue to nurse a little longer if Mom will allow it
    • By now, the cubs are eating an abundance of natural foods like acorns, palmetto berries and more, mother’s milk is not necessary for their proper development
    • They have already learned everything required for survival from Mom. Black bears do not hunt, they are opportunistic feeders with 85% of their diet consisting of plant matter.
    • Studies show that by their first winter, the yearlings know how to build a ‘nest’ with or without Mom, it is an instinctual behavior
    • They can climb a tree better than any of their natural predators in Florida and will do so immediately when threatened
  • Should I go into the woods to try to find cubs orphaned by the hunt? NO!
    • Why? Out of all the female bears in the woods, only a small percentage were killed in the hunt.
    • Not only do the orphaned cubs not need our intervention, if you find a cub in the woods, Mom is probably right behind you!!
    • There are deer hunters in the woods right now – this is not a good time for people to be hiking around and inviting accidents when it truly serves no purpose
    • As stated above, the cubs are old enough to survive on their own. Bringing them into a captive situation simply to offer them food is unnecessary and increases their contact with humans. This puts them at higher risk of becoming nuisance bears and being killed after they are released
  • When do bear cubs need our help?
    • Cubs that are orphaned in their first year often need professional intervention in order to survive if they weigh less than 30 pounds on or after August 1
      • In January & February – When they are first born they are tiny and helpless. They cannot thermoregulate and require Mom to take care of their every need. Any cubs orphaned at this age would certainly die without intervention, luckily Mom seldom leaves their side
      • As they begin to grow and Mom takes them out to forage for food in the spring and early summer, they still require mother’s milk and the family is moving. This increases the chances of being hit by a car or finding their way into people’s trash or attractants, learning to become nuisance bears. Nothing is more fatal to a bear than being ‘fed’ by humans. This will create more orphans than any other man-made threat
      • If the cubs are captured getting into garbage and are young enough to need intervention, they usually have a second chance. They can be rehabilitated and released into proper bear habitat for a second chance at growing up as a properly-behaving bears. As an adult, this won’t work for Mom – it is too late for her
  • What can I do to help bears in Florida?
    • Share this page
    • Encourage your neighbors and everyone you speak with to contain their trash and attractants
    • Remember that “A fed bear is a dead bear” – and focus on preventing the largest preventable cause of orphaned cubs, nuisance bears created by people failing to secure their trash and bird feeders

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