Program helps biologists learn more about black bears

Black bear, Photo Date: 9/22/2016 (PIXNIO)
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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- For the last few years, some black bears in Virginia have been wearing radio-collars and helping biologists learn more about their lives.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologists have been radio-collaring female black bears since 2016.

Information acquired from the collars provides insights into the movements, denning habits, and home ranges of the wild bears in unstudied parts of the Commonwealth.

DGIF says these female bears have also been acting as surrogate mothers for orphaned cubs.

According to a release, there are currently 11 adult female bears that have been fitted with GPS radio-collars, mostly in southcentral counties. These counties include Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham and Pittsylvania.

The radio-collars are linked to satellites that then transmit location data to biologists.

Two of the bears currently have their own cubs, which are around nine months old, with them while the others are expected to give birth this winter.

The release says using wild female bears as surrogate mothers for cubs that have been orphaned has been a successful practice in Virginia.

They are excellent mothers who readily raise the cubs.

The bears are visited in their winter dens by state biologists, and those that have given birth may act as surrogates and be given an appropriate number of orphans depending on her condition, age and the number of natural cubs already present in the den.

DGIF says this program is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with the deployment of the collars being rotated periodically so that no one location or adult bear will be given orphan cubs over a longer period of time.

The state agency says it is legal to harvest a bear wearing a radio-collar as long as all other applicable rules and laws are followed, officials hope these currently collared bears and others that are collared in the future will continue to provide several more years to the bear project.

For more information on the Black Bear Management Plan and more, click on the link in the Related Links box.