A Virginia State Police Trooper who responded to a fatal traffic accident involving a bear is being credited with saving the cubs she left stranded along the side of the road.
A photograph of Senior Trooper D.H. Cepelnik trying to control the playful cubs has been shared nearly 30,000 times on social media in the past few days, with 1,600 comments.
Cepelnick became a temporary father to the pair Thursday, after their mother was killed crossing a highway in Franklin County. The cubs were taken the next day to Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, where they will live until they can be released into the wild.
Wildlife Center officials described the pair as "thin, dehydrated, and mildly anemic." They weighed about 4 pounds each, and one had a small chip fracture on the back of the head. The fracture was painful, but not life-threatening, center officials said.
The cubs are shunning bottle feedings in favor of “mush bowls” – soft dog food with thickened formula designed for black bear cubs, officials said.
This is the time of the year when sows and cubs typically emerge from dens, and it has become increasingly common in the Southeast for cubs to be found orphaned or abandoned. Traffic accidents are often blamed for the separation from a parent.
In North Carolina, a black bear cub was found abandoned on April 1 in the town of Saluda, and is currently living at a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Caswell County. Last year, about seven cubs were found abandoned or orphaned in North Carolina, state officials said.
As for the pair rescued by Cepelnick, the wildlife center says they will eventually be allowed to mingle with other cubs in an outside enclosure, where they can be watched via a Cub Cam on the center's web site.