Environmental and food-based enrichment effects on the stereotypic pacing behaviors of black bears in captivity
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Animal welfare is a concern across zoos worldwide. Animal care staff must consider the best diet, exhibit design, neighbors, exhibit mates, and health care for each animal in the zoo’s collection. However not every animal adapts well to life in captivity. Especially for animals that need vast home ranges to thrive, captivity can lead to stress, anxiety, and boredom. The bear family Ursidae struggles with this limitation (Clubb and Mason, 2007). Black bears in particular are curious, opportunistic foragers that will travel far distances scavenging for food. Because the zoo life does not provide the bears with their normal mate and food seeking opportunities, the bears can begin to exhibit stereotypy – an aimless, time-passing behavior (Ödberg, 1978 & Mason, 1991). A common stereotypy of black bears is pacing (Carlstead et al., 1991). At the Binder Park Zoo, the three black bear siblings, Taima, Achak, and Koko displayed anticipatory pacing behaviors near feeding times. To address this stereotypy, I designed an enrichment program for the bears that included environmental and food-based enrichment that targeted pre lunch and pre dinner periods.