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Florida black bear cub with Lauren Hinson

The cub has already found a home in the arms of curator Lauren Hinson.

Despite the ever-evolving challenges facing our Zoo and community, we’re continuing to aid wildlife in need by taking on the responsibility of hand-raising an orphaned Florida black bear cub.

In late February, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) personnel responded when a member of the public found a weeks-old black bear cub alone on a dirt road in Ocala National Forest.

FWC staff took the cub with them as they searched the area for his mother, keeping the young bear overnight as temperatures were forecast to drop into the thirties. FWC had set up a remote camera over a blanket with the cub’s scent on it overnight, but no adult female was observed.

FWC had the cub examined by a veterinarian and cared for him for several days, which involved placing him in an incubator and bottle-feeding him every few hours.

The cub had an “uncoordinated suck,” which made him difficult to nurse and may have been the reason why he was abandoned. This condition and the resulting abandonment have been observed in domestic animals.

FWC is the agency responsible for managing bears in Florida and decides whether a rehabilitated bear can be released to the wild on a case-by-case basis. Because he was abandoned at such a young age, the cub is not a candidate for release, and FWC staff transferred him to us for long-term care.

The cub, who is an estimated six weeks of age, is now healthy, feeding well and has opened his eyes! His primary caretaker, curator of animals Lauren Hinson, has successfully hand-raised several other Zoo residents. The young bear is fed every four hours around the clock—including during the night.

Also, make sure to follow the cub’s journey on our social media channels!

This is a challenging time for our Zoo. As a not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funds, we rely on earned income from admissions and memberships—and we stand to lose one third of our annual income while we are temporarily closed. That’s why now, more than ever, your support is critical. You can help make an impact by purchasing or renewing a membership, donating to our fund, creating a Facebook fundraiser for the Zoo or simply spreading the word.