CAPTIVE-BORN BLACK BEAR CARE SHEET
Written by: Pat
Rask, Sybils Den
SHOULD KNOW BEFORE CONSIDERING BUYING A BLACK BEAR
you have the time to commit to a black bear?
Are you willing to give up your vacations?
Have you done a multitude of
research on captive black bears?
Have you talked with bear owners?
you afford to feed him/her?
Do you realize the strength an
adult bear has?
Would you know what to do if a bear would over
|Can you afford to build the proper
secure outdoor enclosure? Can you build a shelter
where they feel secure and can hibernate?
Do you have a vet that is
willing to treat a black bear?
If so, does this vet have any experience with exotic
if not, is the vet willing to learn?
black bears legal in your state?
Have you checked with your state DNR/Game
Do you have a place to put a
large outdoor enclosure so neighbors or other people can not see
Are you neighbors willing to accept the fact you own
a black bear?
Do you have the patience to
bottle feed a bear cub?
Are you willing to get up during the night several
times to feed a cub?
Are there young kids in your
household or kids that come on your property that
that would tease the bear or go in the pen?
Do you have experience
with other animals?
Farm animals? other exotic animals?
It there a pond or large pool
in the pen? (they love water)
If not, can you afford to get some type of water
source for them?
Please do extensive research
prior to owning a captive-born black bear. A black bear is
NOT like a dog.. Black bears still have wild animal instincts and can get aggressive for no reason.
Those cute little cubs grow up and are very strong animals.
You have to understand their needs, proper food, proper care and
proper housing. Always have a back up plan of "what if".
Some exotic animal owners can be too trusting with their bears, or any
large exotics animals, accidents can happen. (not that it happens
often) the problem is, when it does, this just makes all the
responsible owners look bad, and more bans happen, state wide.
At the time of this writing, many states are now banning many exotic
animals, due to accidents from being too trusting.
I have seen too many people realize, they can't handle a bear and
other exotics after they grow up, then try to re-home them.
Chances are these unwanted bears will be put down or
put in a rehab center. This is NOT fair to the animal or the owner.
You cannot put a bear or any animal in a pen without a lot of human
contact or expect the animal to be happy and friendly in a small enclosure. It just don't work
that way. It takes a lot of understanding and extensive research. when I say
"research" I don't mean just watching a few TV shows or just reading
a few posts on the internet. The best way to learn more about
them, is read everything you can find on black bears. Most
importantly, TALK TO BEAR OWNERS. ask questions. Also, visit zoos,
rebab centers, and other bear owners. Watch the bears
If you have done your research and really would like to have a black
bear, The following is the basic information to start with:
The first thing is, you will need to check with your state and
township to see what the regulations are. You should have all the
information and required permits before buying a black bear.
Otherwise, expect a large fine and the bear put down. I
personally have seen this happen.
Many states are now banning bears and other exotic animals, if they are not banned, then there
is a two-year experience required. That is how it is in my
state and many other states.
Black Bears can be a lot of fun, as long as you
understand them, and have the ability to handle them properly.
The male bears grows larger then the female bears do.. A female bear
will average about 250-350 pounds.. A male bear can get as large as
700 pounds or more.. .
article that was written by "The American Black Bear Association"
If you already have a black bear, this article gives many ideas for your
If you are considering one, this article might help you decide.
HOW TO FIND A BLACK
|It is important to know the breeder of the black bear cub before
you buy one. There are several breeders that are into breeding
for the money. Then there are the good breeders that care about the
cubs and their welfare.
The bad breeders, generally don't pull the cubs from the mother
the same day or prior to selling it. . This will make it very difficult to
handle the cub. These cubs did not have human contact until it is
sold.. Human contact with cubs is very important, otherwise, most
people will get discouraged, bitten and scratched. Chances are
good, if you buy a bear cub that has not any or little human
contact, then expect a very difficult time working this cub.
I have seen several people run cubs back through the auction,
because the cubs were too hard too handle.
To give you an idea of what I am trying to say: When I bought Sybil,
I bought her from a bad breeder. She was my first bear cub. She was very
hard to handle. bit, scratched a lot. It took months before she
finally got use to people. Bottle feeding her was a real task.
But, keep in mind, I have had years of experience with many other
I just did the best I could to work with Sybil. Most people would
get discouraged and give up. I have seen it happen many times.
It was very time-consuming to work with a bear cub with a wild-type
Now with Benny, he was from a good breeder, he
never bit me, he was very patient for his bottle and much more
friendlier than Sybil.
If you buy a cub from an auction, make sure you meet the breeder
before bidding on him/her. Keep in mind, Benny is still a "wild
animal" that has the potential to change moods in a split second.
Even though Benny has never showed any aggression, I am still
Generally, you can tell by the size of a cub if it had human
contact. The cubs from the bad breeder are generally
smaller.. The good breeder cubs are bigger and fatter. It is best to
talk to the breeder prior to buying a cub. However, it would
be best to find a breeder, rather than buying one at an auction.
again, MAKE SURE you are clear on the legality of owning a black
bear in your state, county and township.
are almost always born in January. They should be bought at a young
age, of about 3-4 months old assuming the cub had human contact
prior selling it.
WHERE TO BUY A BLACK
|There are several exotic animal auctions that have black bear
cubs.. Mostly, in the early spring is when they are available.. Also
in animal finders guide
there is cubs listed.. Zoo's in some states
will sell bear cubs, but generally at the age of 6 months or older.
I bought Sybil and Benny at Mt Hope Exotic auction.. This auction is
generally held the first week of April every year. They do have
several other auctions throughout the year, but, the cubs are sold
only in April.
But again, make sure you have your permit, your research done, money
for a large enclosure, water source.
Also, understand your vacations are very limited. It is hard
to find someone that will take care of the bear.
If you did have someone that would, this person should have a good
understanding of black bears.
NEVER let anyone in the pen with them. (mostly when the bears are
TO BOTTLE FEED A BEAR CUB?
A multi-purpose powder milk replacement with at
least 25% fat or higher
A local feed store should have this. I bought this at Agway.
DO NOT FEED A CUB WHOLE MILK.
THIS IS NOT ENOUGH FAT CONTENT.
A regulator baby bottle can be used to feed a bear cub. Bear
cubs seem to do best on the is type of bottle. As the cub
gets older and requires more than one bottle, you should have
all the bottles ready at the same time.
Generally, the most milk a cub will drink
at one feeding is three bottles. The milk should be luke warm,
almost room temperature. Test it on your wrist as you would a
regular baby's bottle.
The bottle can be heated in a microwave if you have it some in
the refrigerator. Otherwise, the best is to make it as
needed with warm water and of course the milk powder.
If the cub is a bit resistant to drinking the milk, add a little
honey or syrup in the milk. The nipple might need to be open a
little more than for a baby, but, don't open the nipple IF the cub
is getting the milk with not problem.
If the cub is not getting the milk
fast enough, he/she could get frustrated.
But, don't make the hole
too big otherwise, the cub can choke and/or throw some of it up.
When the bear cub gets use to drinking it's bottle, you can mix a little
mashed potatoes, scrambled egg or baby cereal in it's milk mixture.
I don't recommend adding the above until the cub is a little
The addition of potatoes, scrambled egg or cereal will help satisfy
the cub. A bear cub will generally let you know when he is hungry
and when he is full. On an average, they eat about every 3-5 hours.
(so be prepared to wake up during the night to feed the cub)
When you feed a bear cub, feed him/her almost like you would a
baby, on it's back, but keep him elevated up. the cub will then wrap
his paws around your arm. The claws, are sharp, so you might want to
wear some type of protection to cover your arm. They
don't mean to scratch on purpose, this is just a normal reaction for them
while they are eating.
A pair of welding gloves will help eliminate the
scratches. (Although, we did not use them)
The pictures shown are of Benny when he
was a cub.
CLAWS OR DE-CLAWED?
|Bear cub claws are very
sharp. One reason for de-clawing is when bottle feeding them they do scratch
and bite. When Sybil and Benny were about three months old, I had their
claws removed and their baby canines removed. (the second canines will
grow back) With the claws, it was a little more difficult to
However, Looking back now, I
am not so sure I would have had them declawed. The only reason I did it in
the first place was
because of Sybil's wild tendencies. Sybil was like pulling an
animal from the wild. (which of course she was not).
The breeder pulled the cubs from her momma the same day I bought
her. With this in mind, this is why it is best to make sure
the bear cub is bought from a good breeder.
Sybil was more aggressive than Benny was.. This was due to the
way they were pulled from their mother.. However, they did not scratch for
defense, when bottle feeding, they wrap their front paws around my arm,
where the claws would dig into my arm.. (didn't feel very pleasant)
Their claws are not retractable like cat's claws..
If you are considering de-clawing your cub, this should be
done at a very young age.
Any cub past four months old, is much harder on the cub and is more
expensive to have done.
(I don't recommend having it done after 4 months). If
you can handle the cub with claws, I think that would
be the better idea. You would need to wear something with long
sleeves with heavy material.
However, it is not crucial that
the cub get declawed and probably should be avoided. Their enclosure should be more secure at
the top, so they don't climb out,
but, I think, as bears get older, they generally don't seem to climb
to the top of the fence. Also, some state regulations require a top
fence on top.
The other reason I had my cubs de-clawed, is for the safety of the dogs and
the safety of the cub.. With claws they can climb tree's.. without claws,
it is obvious they can't climb.. I did not want to take any chance of
Sybil and Benny climbing tree's where they could possibly escape or fall
out of a tree. This has happened to wild and domestic bears.
think this is cruel and unnatural. I personally look at it as a
safety feature for the bear, dogs and people. Even though a bears
claws will dull a little as they mature.
Sybil and Benny did not have any problem at all adjusting to not having
claws. In fact, by the next day after their surgery, they were fine, as
though nothing ever happened. actually, some of their claws grew
back. but, they are short.
Wild bears obviously need their claws to hunt food and for defense.
Captive born bears don't have to worry about hunting foods or
predators. Declawing is only a personal preference.
There are some other bear owners that have their bears with the
claws and don't seem to have any problem. Basically, just make sure
the cub is safe from climbing too high.
A domestic black bear should NEVER be released back into the wild.
Unwanted bears should be placed in a rehab center or sold to someone
that will care for it. It would be almost impossible for a de-clawed
bear to survive in the wild. Even a bear with its claws will have a
hard time surviving in the wild. They are very dependant on
people, where this will just be a death sentence for a
WHEN AND HOW TO
BOTTLE BREAK A BEAR CUB?
|Most bear cubs are born in
January or February. In the wild, they generally quit nursing from their
mothers around September. In captivity, usually around August or
This is something that needs be done a little at time. The cub should be
eating, prior to bottle breaking. Fruit, eggs or most soft
foods is a good starter
The first thing we did was start putting milk in a bowl. They
will start drinking a little bit. You could also try putting milk on
their fruit or whatever food they are eating at that time.
But, they still will want the bottle. This needs to be done a little each
day. I start cutting back on the bottles. I would try to get
them to eat more food. Sometimes they would go without a bottle for
a day or two, but, I would give into them and give them a bottle. It
took about two to three weeks to completely bottle break them.
Sybil was much harder to break than Benny. Benny was eating more
food than Sybil was at 7 months. Sybil was also much more
aggressive than Benny at that age.
WHAT DO CAPTIVE BLACK BEARS
Sybil and Benny get fed
twice a day.
I have found that Sybil and Benny will get tired of the same foods
everyday. So I try to give them a few different foods every couple
During hibernation, their food intake is cut in less than half. They do not eat
much during hibernation.
I don't want to feed them much either, because
they are less active..
The following is some of the foods Sybil and Benny eat.
They will get bored with the same food everyday. Their absolute
favorite is raw eggs. I give them shell and all, they enjoy breaking the
shell to eat the egg. I also hand feed eggs to them, and worthers
hard candy and dog treats.
When they get dog food, I will mix lettuce, can cat food, oil, honey,
syrup or eggs.
they also love jelly on their bread.
The following is a list of some of the foods they eat.
Their food is altered and some depend on the season.
(Note: An asterisk represents
their favorite and
is usually fed daily when available.)
||Corn on the cob
In conjunction with
fruits and Vegetables
they also get the following.
|I mix honey, lettuce, bread and eggs in
|They get the following
worthers hard candy (hand treat)
How and where we buy
of the foods listed:
are purchased at a large flea market. We
purchase in bulk.
The fruit is the same fruit that is sold for human
consumption. It is all good fruit. We are lucky to
have found a couple vendors that are willing to sell
some of their produce in bulk for a much better price.
Bread and Snacks:
We purchase this at a bread store by bulk.
The bread and snacks are still in date when purchased.
but, some may be close to expiring.
since there is so much of it, we put most of the bread
and snacks in freezers to preserve it longer.
However, the bread and snacks are not solely for the
bears, it is also used for some of our farm animals.
We mainly try to get bread, or low sugar treats.
WHAT IS NEEDED FOR
HOUSING AND ENCLOSURES FOR BLACK BEARS?
|The first thing to check is with your state regulations. Some
states will have different regulations for fence and housing.
The bear (when old enough) can be kept in
his/her pen by the end of their first summer.
They should be introduced to their new environment a little each
day. This way, they will adjust easier when they are put their full
time. Make sure a lot of time is spent with them when they are
in the pen. A little at a time, let them also get use to be there alone.
They must have a house
that they can feel secure in. Straw is a must, especially in the
The den should be enclosed as much as possible where they can feel
secure and warm in the winter.
Sybil and Benny's house is a barn that was
sectioned off. It is set up with two stories. They have a ladder
that goes to the loft (their den) which they seem to prefer. But,
they also have an opening from the loft where they can go outside to
their porch with steps.
The lower part of their den, also have
has another opening to go outside.
Sybil and Benny also have toys in their den and downstairs. They
generally played with them more when they were younger.
seem to bother too much now.
The picture shown here is Sybil in her den. she is coming down
the steps to the lower part of her den.
The house should be made of heavy wood, It wouldn't hurt to have
chain link fence on the
outside of their house. As bears get older, they get
stronger. Eventually, they could break through walls. T1-11 wood
might be alright , but, the thicker, the better.
The fence MUST be constructed with chain link. You should not use
anything thinner. As I said, the older they get, the stronger they
get. Cattle fence or similar, will not be strong enough, bears can break through
this. The bottom of the fence should be cemented in. Otherwise, you stand a
chance of them working the bottom of the fence and escaping.
If they have claws, they will dig their way out.
The size of the pen should be made as big as possible. If you
don't construct a large enough pen in their young years, you
should have plans to enlarge the pen as they get older.
It is also a good idea to
have your pen in a few sections. This method makes it easy
when cleaning their pen. you can lock them in to one side,
while you clean the other side.
The size of
the fence should be as big as you can possibly make it. However,
the first one or two years, you should be ok with a minimum of about a
30 X 25 pen. The height would be about 12 feet high.
Keep in mind, bears get bored very easily. They need a lot of
activity. If you
have a small pen, I definitely recommend increasing their pen size.
If at all possible, a pond would be great or something big to put water
in for them. Keep in mind, using a pool with no filtration is
extremely hard to keep the water fresh.
Sybil and Benny's pen currently is about 300 X 200 ft. There second
expansion is done. with a third expansion in the works.
Chain link fence is very expensive. keep in mind, you will
need the heavy poles, gates and a backhoe or lots of friends to help
construct it. We were lucky that we got all our chain link
fence from a few sources that were getting rid of the fence.
Obviously, a truck is needed to pick the fence up. Then a
backhoe or some type of heavy equipment to be able to lift the fence
in position. unless you can get a lot of people to help put
the fence up. Don't have too long of a span between poles.
I think about 6 feet spans for poles would be best.
Sybil and Benny's fence is 12' high. That is the requirements
from the state regulations.
I personally agree with this height, mostly, if the bears have
claws. but, being de-clawed, I would think 10' high would
work. But, I have to go with my state regulations. However, we
can never "over secure" a pen. Also, to be extra safe, put
a electric fence at the very top if you don't have a top on the pen.
Part of their pen don't have a top, but, has electric wire.
The most important part of the fencing is the bottom of the fence. The
bottom fence should be cemented in, otherwise, bury the fence in
the dirt and put a strand of electric at the bottom. outside the
fence might be better.
If your bear has claws, I would recommend a top on it. If a top
cannot be put on, then make sure there is electric around the top so
they don't escape. DO NOT use any netting type for the top.
This is dangerous, the bear could get caught in it.. If the bears
don't have claws, a strand of electric at the top will be fine.
Chance are the bear can't climb to the top, but, it is best to be
safe than sorry.
The height of the
fence should be 10' for de-clawed bears and 12' for bears with
claws. However, you will have to check with your state regulations
for the pen requirement. Some states require you
have a top on the pen.
It is always best to be safe than sorry.
DO BEARS REALLY SLEEP WHEN THEY HIBERNATE?
|If the weather
is cold. Sybil and Benny do Hibernate. But, a true hibernation does not mean they sleep the whole time.
They will get up a lot. We still feed them, but not as much as
we do in the summer.
They generally get up
to eat or play a little, but, their preference is to stay in their den.
They are supplied with plenty of straw.
They did make themselves a very big nest with the straw.
Click here for more
information and pictures of Sybil and Benny in Hibernations.
I believe the weather is a factor in this. Generally, a captive bear
cub will not always hibernate their first year. Sybil did not
hibernate her first year. Benny did, only because he was already
bonded to Sybil. Pool little guy seemed a little bored at
times. I made sure he had his toys there.
Now that Benny is older, he and Sybil snuggle together. Benny
makes the nest himself. We just give him a couple bales of straw,
and he creates a real nice big nest for two. Sybil just waits until
he is done.
ARE BLACK BEARS
No, black bears are really not vicious by nature,
but they very well could be. However, it depends on the way the
Captive-born bears can get aggressive. but, they are not generally killers.
However, the owner of bears should use common sense when raising bears.
Adult bears should NEVER be 100% trusted, and never let anyone other
than the owner have close contact with them. If a bear is raised with a
lot of love and understanding, chances lessen for any tragic accidents.
This does not mean that bears can still be trusted. Anything from
a different type noise, or body movement could trigger a quick mood
change. It is always good to have a back up plan. It is also
important that they understand certain basic commands.
But this is not fool proof either.
The worse time for black bears moods is breeding season, which is
generally June, July and sometimes into August and September.. A female
will generally mature at 3 years old. A male about 4 years old.. but,
for the male, they could mature younger, depending on their size and
It is possible that having one bear during breeding season, could make
the chances greater of them becoming more aggressive.
But, honestly, I am not really sure. I just know that Sybil and
Benny don't seem to show any aggression during breeding season.
Black bears in the wild, are only looking for food. Most wild
black bears are afraid of people. However, a hungry black bear
could get aggressive. Most black bears fear loud noises. so if
you are ever confronted by a black bear, making loud noises would most
likely scare him/her away. Never wave your arms up, this could be
intimidating to a bear in the wild.
A great site to look at for Bears in the wild is
IS IT HARD TO RAISE A BLACK BEAR?
YES, it can be.
It takes a lot of planning of understanding their proper care, needs and
Black bears are NOT like raising a dog. You can't expect to buy a bear cub and attempt to raise it like
you would a dog. Bears do not understand correction as a dog would.
It takes a lot of patience and time to care for a cub.
Remember, they will grow large and very strong and can over power you.
Never hit a bear, they don't understand this type of correction. When they are full grown, sometimes certain noises can startle them.
They can be unpredictable.
The best time to get a cub is when he/she is only a few months old.. You
will need to bottle feed the cub. We used a baby bottle for Sybil and
Benny. The milk has to be a high fat content in it, at least 25%.
They could bite .
but, in time. The cub will get use to you and understand not to bite. It
takes time for them to understand.
With Sybil, she was pretty aggressive when she was a few months old.
When she was finished drinking her first bottle, we had to make sure we
had her second and third bottle ready or she would bite. This was
because she was never bottle fed when we got her. It just took
time for her to understand drinking from a baby bottle.
Now with Benny, he was not as bad.. he was more patient than Sybil was.
That was because Benny's breeder pulls his cubs several weeks prior to
selling them. Benny was and still is a very calm guy. but, again,
he is still a bear.
Overall, bear cubs are a lot of work, but once they are weaned and put
in their pen, it is not as much work and cleanup in the house. They still need to have human contact as much as possible. They generally
like people and like to be around people, but, there is still a chance
an adult bear can get aggressive. You should be on guard at all times
when you are with your bear. NEVER let anyone else in the pen
with an adult bear. Never let anyone put their finger
through the fence. DO NOT let children near the fence.
One very important factor in raising a bear cub is
NEVER WRESTLE OR
ROUGH HOUSE with your cub. He/She will think that is ok when they get
Also, as the cub grows up, never let him/her stand when you are around
them. Do NOT encourage them at all to stand.
if you are at the outside of
their pen, do not encourage them to stand. Instead encourage them
to stay on all fours. You can start out by, having a treat, but only
give them the treat when they are on all fours. You would have to
sitting or squatting when handing them the treat. if they stand, tell
your bear "NO" in a stern voice. This should have been taught at a young
There are many people that cannot go into their bears pen because they
wrestled or let them stand. Again, Black bears are very strong animals
and you don't want them standing when you are in the pen with them.
|The above information is
only basic information.
It is only based on my experience.
If you have
more questions, please join Sybil's Message board. There is lots of
information from members and m. Also when you sign up, you can post and
you will see all the pictures that are posted there..