Richmond teacher named national teacher of the year

Bears ripped from wild and raised as pets need new home

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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WTVR) - The Wildlife Center of Virginia needs to find a new home for two bears that were stolen from the wild as cubs by humans and are now too domesticated to survive on their own.

When CBS 6 visited the Center in Waynesboro, Va.,  the two bears walked right up to our reporter and photographer.

“This is ridiculous, this is an animal that just wants to be close to people, that is not natural behavior,” Edward Clark, Jr, President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said.

The bears, one male and one female, are each 16 months old, and they’re not scared of humans.

Clark calls that a “fatal flaw.”

“A solitary animal that weighs 400 or 500 pounds that has absolutely no fear of humans is an animal that's going to cause somebody an awful lot of fright and sooner or later it's going to end up shot,” Clark said.

Wildlife officials picked up the cubs last year from people who stole the cubs from the wild.

They were “treated like a pet, kept in the house around the family, the dogs, whatever,” Clark said.

Those people raised the cubs illegally for six weeks before giving them up.

“The person who had this male here was prosecuted,” Clark said.

But, by that point, it was too late for the bears because they were already comfortable around humans.

“These two bears are the ones that have to endure the life sentence. They are going to be in captivity, confinement for their entire life,” Clark said.

Clark hopes an accredited zoo or zoological park will come forward and save the bears from being euthanized.

“It really is more humane from our perspective to euthanize an animal rather than condemn it to a life condition or circumstance that is inhumane and unlivable,” Clark said.


  • catlover58

    Though I do not concur with raising them as pets, they should be placed in a zoo. There is no sense in euthanizing innocent creatures.

  • Jesse Calvin

    If you euthanize the bears then you are no better than the ones who stole them from the woods. Why would you take the life of innocent animals who have done nothing wrong except TRUST humans.

    • Mich

      Sensationalist media that does no good to the bears or the humans.

      Why not try reading the mission of the Wildlife Center of Virginia? Or how about the WTVR actually report facts?

      The search has JUST BEGUN for homes for the bears. Euthanizing would be a LAST resort and Ed Clark is already confident that homes can be found, and so it would not be likely they would be euthanized.

      Way to go WTVR for encouraging ignorance and death threats instead of bothering to get the story right.

      I suppose the next be story by your competitors is how you were brought down by a bunch of animal lovers for libel and slander against a man who has done a lot to protect wildlife at an INTERNATIONAL level, as well as work with Homeland security in assessing threats through wildlife.

  • M. Hall

    Would Maymont be a possible new home for them? If not, why? How about the Richmond Zoo in Chesterfield County? Mr. Clark seems to have such a negative outlook to be in the position he presently holds. If the decision is made to euthanize them there is going to be another huge uproar just like the one that occurred when the Maymont bears were euthanized. Why would you allow this to occur a second time?

  • Joe

    So they would rather euthanize these animals rather than give them back to their owners? This is such a screwed up system we are living under. What ever happened to common sense and rationalization. These bears do not deserve to die based on these circumstances. If they attacked or killed someone, it would be a different story. Wildlife officials need to learn to use more discretion instead of trying to make the state more money by prosecuting people for petty things.

    • Another Wildlife Center Supporter

      Joe, these bears don’t have “owners.” The people who last year took them away from their moms — ruining any chance they had to learn to be normal bears — were deliberately breaking the law against capturing wild animals.

  • SOme guy

    Stealing them from the wild?? Wow. So they can find/prosecute people who steal animals from wild, but cannot seem to resolve cases of theft and violence against actual humans?

  • Ed Clark, President Wildlife Center of Virginia

    The Wildlife Center and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are committed to finding these two bears an appropriate home. Euthanasia would only be a last resort if no appropriate place can be found. Placing a wild animal that will end up weighing more than 500 pounds is not easy. They live for up to 20 years and it is a very serious commitment of time, money and resources to accept responsibility for such an animal. It is not like finding a home for a lost dog. WE have a number of leads and we will pursue them all. Our commitment is to these bears. Their situation is not their fault, and we will do everything possible to see that they have appropriate housing for the rest of their lives. Someone’s home or a roadside zoo with tiny cages and inappropriate care are NOT appropriate for these animals. The references to euthanasia are to emphasize that people who steal wild animals from the wild, and try to make them pets, are often condemning the animals. Wild animals need to be wild….and free.

  • D

    Euthanize the bears simply because they do not fulfill the conventional role?! Ridiculous. Find a bear sanctuary instead of resorting to killing innocent LIFE. This is absurd that you, the director of The Wildlife Center of VA, have the nerve and gall to dare suggest such an inhumane and VILE action. ALL resources should be exhausted before exercising scare tactics to prevent such behavior in the future. Let us focus on the safety and care of these innocent bears before using them as a platform to finger-wag.

    • Joe Johnson

      You don’t comprehend the written word very well “D”. Try reading the comment above one more time, slowly.


    we have to zoo’s in the richmond area one is maymont the other is the chesterfield zoo down 360 near winterpock why can’t they take them !!!!

  • Nancy Dement

    The Wildlife Center of VA will make every effort to find good homes for these bears. They are in the business of saving wildlife, not destroying it. This situation was created because individuals kept these cubs and did not turn them over to the proper authorities and subsequently WCV quickly enough. If that had been the case they would have remained afraid of humans instead of the opposite.

  • Kathe Powell

    I have seen bears kept in roadside zoo’s and their life is not what I consider a good one. Concrete floors and 10 X 10 foot bars. I would rather see the bears euthanized than to live like that. However, the Wildlife Center of VA has always put the animals needs first and will do so here. They will make every effort to find an accredited zoo or sanctuary to take these animals if possible. Euthanasia is a last resort and hopefully will not happen in this case. But if it does, I will feel better knowing they tried their best to find good homes for these bears. But the people you need to be upset with are the people that took the bears and tried to make them pets in the first place. They did the damage, no one else.

  • Roberta E. Sonnino

    I think many readers have mis-interpreted this article: The WCV is committed to the best interest of every animal that crosses their doors. They are doing everything they can to place these 2 yearlings in a facility where they can live a long life – that is their top priority.

    I hope the readers will understand that the WCV has no desire or intention to euthanize these 2 bears – it is not what they do, and they never do it, unless there is absolutely no possible alternative. They are no where near even considering that: the process of searching for a permanent home has just started!.

    The WCV has cared for dozens of bears, and successfully released them back in the wild, where they belong. These 2 yearlings, right now look cute and cuddly, but they will grow up to be big bears – up to 500 lbs, at least for males. Unfortunately, they would be at great risk if released, because they lost their fear of humans, so they might approach people who, understandably, would react defensively, and this could very well cost the bears their lives.

    Since these yearlings cannot be released, the WCV needs to find a place with the proper facilities and the resources to take care of a 500 lb bear for the next 20+ years.They are looking very hard for such a place.

  • Brenda Rion

    Please read carefully Dr. Ed Clark’s comments made at 8:45 A. M. The Wildlife Center of Virginia does not consider euthanasia as a first resort and is trying diligently to find these bears a good place to live out their lives well cared for and in comfort.and will be patient in the effort. I have been a supporter of the Center since the 1980’s and also am from the area where it is located. I know first-hand that this group truly cares about wildlife and will do all they can to avoid having to euthanize healthy animals. It is heart breaking to them that even in a great place these innocent bears will be prisoners all their lives because of the ignorance of some humans. They do all they can to educate people as to the consequences of trying to keep wild animals as pets (there is a good reason why keeping wild animals, unless one is a permitted animal rehabilitator, is illegal) so that no animals will be put into the positions of these young bears.

    Take a good look at the Center’s website ( and decide for yourself if this is a group that would rush into euthanizing healthy animals without using every other possible option first.

  • Richard W. Firth

    I am sick and tired of always hearing an animal has to be put down just because a home can’t be found. What does the animal want–like the rest of us–to live its life as long as it so desires.

    Since it is the human’s fault for their situation, the humans should pay the price for their error and not the bears.

  • Wildlife Center Supporter

    Based on what Mr. Clark said, the human – or humans that took these bears from the wild have been prosecuted and are paying for their error. The WCV is a wonderful teaching hospital having been in Waynesboro, VA for over 30 years. In the past 2 years, they have built an amazing complex to receive injured and or orphaned bears with their goal of “Treat to release” and that philosophy applies not only bears, but ALL animals that are brought to them. They do not want to euthanize these 2 bears, they want to find a place where they can live out their lives. And if and when they find an appropriate place for the yearlings to go, they will send them there. Unfortunately as a result of humans, they cannot live out their life as it is supposed to be. Shame on the humans that snatched these cubs – now yearlings and sentenced them to this life of being confined versus living in the wild.

    Before you criticise the Wildlife Center of Virginia, go to their website and learn more about them and the work that they do.

  • Michael Finlayson

    You have confirmed the fact that the ONLY purpose of the media is to sell advertising.

    My friend Ed has been rescuing wildlife since right after we left college; call it roughly 40 years. Your “reporters” came up and did a story on two yearling bears he had rescued, and ran it under a sensationalist headline that he was going to kill the bears if homes for them weren’t found immediately. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A fine, decent & ethical man who has done nothing but good for the wildlife of Virginia (and beyond) is being maligned solely to increase your viewers and advertising dollars, and advance the careers or a couple of wholly unworthy individuals. (That is as nice as I can describe them.) Ed has even received his first death threat.

    As is true in most of these cases, a retraction will be seen by a fraction of the viewers you have already tainted. If it were me, I would sue for defamation and/or libel, or demand the firing of those responsible, but I doubt Ed will.

    He’s used to protecting vicious, ruthless animals.

  • Cat McKeen

    Thank you Melissa for stepping forward on facebook and clarifying the story and i’m glad the lead line for the story has changed, however, it is a travesty that Ed has received a death threat due to the way this story was reported. I believe, as do many others who support the vision of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, that you and the station owe Mr Clark and the center an on air correction and apology for the way this story was reported. The Wildlife Center of Virginia is honored world wide for it’s wildlife veterinarian teaching program and for the wonderful work Ed and the center have done over the years. With the way this story was presented WTVR has just made a huge negative impact on the center and should make an effort to correct the error. There isn’t anyone on the face of this planet that cares more for wildlife than Mr. Ed Clark. We should all be thankful that he is around.

  • Charlie Eller

    Just another example of supposed journalists attempting to sensationalize an ordinary story. If there’s to be blame on this story, then place it on WTVR and the “wannabe journalist” that interviewed Mr. Clark.

  • Barb in SD

    It defies comprehension that terribly uninformed people could ever entertain the thought that Ed Clark and the WCV would CHOOSE to euthanize the 2 bears without first exhausting every possible lead to find a good forever home for them. The Wildlife Center has connections around the WORLD, and will do everything they can to find a place where the bears can be well cared for. Not every facility can afford to feed these large mammals, and may simply not have room for them. Everyone’s anger should be directed at the selfish, irresponsible people who kidnapped the bears in the first place. This situation is not the fault of VDGIF or Mr. Clark or the WCV, all of whom are trying desperately to educate the public on learning to live with wildlife, since we keep encroaching on their territory and ruining their habitat. Wake up, people! Leave wild animals alone!!

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