More people are seeing bears these days, and experts say the facility will help deal with a growing population. The two-acre Black Bear Rearing and Rehabilitation Complex is designed to house bears that are recovering from an injury or were abandoned as cubs. The wildlife center hopes to keep about 30 bears in the enclosures.
Project managers kept in mind safety, as well as a natural setting, to guide the furry creatures on their way back to the wild. The main focus is on the animal's recovery.
"The facility is really enclosed wildness, if you will. They're just fenced-in areas of the forest - a perfect black bear habitat - with trees and bushes and shrubs,” said Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
Clark says the black bear population in Virginia keeps growing, by about 9 percent each year.
"With as many bears as we've gotten this year, 25 so far this year, we know we're never going to have a shortage of bears,” said Clark.
The enclosures include observation decks for medical and animal care staff to feed and to access the animals. There are also cameras to keep an eye on the bears. Fencing and cobble line the perimeter to deter bears from getting too close to the outside and there are cushions that prevent them from climbing out.
"This place really will be a state-of-the-art facility because we've drawn on ideas and design features from facilities all over the world. We've taken the best of their ideas, we've learned from their mistakes, and we hope we'll have a facility that will effectively contain the bears in which they can grow and learn to do bear stuff, and eventually go back to the wild,” said Clark.
"Having a viable bear population - it's almost like an environmental barometer - it's a sign of the health of our wilderness and the health of our habitat,” said Bob Duncan, executive director of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
About half the funding for the $450,000 project came from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Construction crews still have a few things to work on, but they're hoping the bears can ring in the new year from their new home.
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