LUNENBURG, Va. (KTVU) - Biologists in Virginia on Monday successfully matched an orphaned bear cub with a surrogate mother.
The biologists placed the cub at the opening of an active den, where earlier they identified a sow with two cubs of her own.
Shortly after dropping off the cub, "the sow poked her head out of the den, sniffed the new cub, and quickly picked him up and placed him with her two cubs," according to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, which has been caring for the orphaned cub.
Animal care officials celebrated the moment as a huge success, as a previous attempt to match up the cub with a foster mother did not result in the same outcome.
Last week, biologists placed the cub at another active den, where the small animal was left for more than five hours as they waited to see if the sow inside would come and claim the cub.
When she did not, biologists brought the cub back to the Wildlife Center, where the animal has been cared for since Jan. 23, after rabbit hunters discovered the cub, along with a sibling in Lunenburg County.
The two animals, estimated to be about 10 days old, were in a den by themselves.
Wildlife experts agreed that the two cubs should be left for the rest of the day to allow their mother to come back.
The following day, a biologist with the center checked on the bears and saw no signs of their mother.
One of the cubs had made its way out of the den and was very cold and wet.
"The biologist took the cubs and began warming and re-hydrating them; sadly, one of the cubs died later that same night," according to the Wildlife Center.
The surviving cub was brought to the center, where experts closely monitored the animal and began working with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) in the search for a surrogate mother.
Biologists checked the dens of the collared female bears they are aleady tracking.
According to the VDGIF, "Using wild, female bears as surrogate mothers for orphan cubs has been a successful practice in Virginia. Female bears are excellent mothers and will readily take orphan cubs."
Biologists are set to continue to monitor the den, where the cub is now with his new family.
They said that they do not want to "disturb the sow by too much immediate activity," but they plan to return to the site to check on the cub in a few weeks.