Since 2016, the 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 unstudied areas of Virginia. Additionally, these female bears serve as surrogate mothers for orphaned black bear cubs.

There are currently eleven adult females fitted with GPS radio-collars primarily in southcentral counties of Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, and Pittsylvania. GPS radio-collars are linked to satellites that transmit location data to the biologists. Two of these females currently have their own cubs (around 9 months old) with them and the rest can be expected to give birth 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 may act as surrogate mothers and be given an appropriate number of orphan cubs depending on the female’s condition, age, and the number of natural cubs already present.

This exciting project is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Deployment of the radio-collars will be rotated periodically so that no one location or female bear will acquire orphan cubs over an extended period of time. While radio-collared bears are legal for harvest (as long as all applicable laws and regulations are followed), we hope that these female bears, along with those collared in the future, will continue to provide several more years of service to the Department’s bear project.

Please visit our bear website at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/bear to view information ranging from general bear facts, the Black Bear Management Plan, how-to videos and information on living with bears, as well as tips for hunters and other useful links.


To report wildlife crime call 1-800-237-5712.