By Heather Paddock | California Trail Animal Keeper
In today’s blog we want to wish you and your family a Happy New Year from our Black Bear family!
We were overjoyed to welcome our family of four Black Bears to Oakland Zoo back in June 2017. At that time this mother bear and her three tiny cubs had just been removed from the wild because this sow was determined by State Fish and Wildlife to be a nuisance bear in southern California. We were very lucky to be able to receive the entire family into our care.
Oakland Zoo is working with partner organizations like People and Carnivores http://www.oaklandzoo.org/conservation-partners/people-and-carnivores and the BEAR League http://www.oaklandzoo.org/conservation-partners/b-e-a-r-leagueto help Californians and others reduce human-wildlife conflict and live side by side with bears.
In the months since their arrival we have seen lots of growth with our bears, both physically and with the personalities of each individual. When our black bear family came to us the cubs were only 30 pounds each.
As of mid-December, at just over 11 months old, the cubs are now around 150 pounds each! They definitely don’t all fit in one hammock any more.
The bears are very smart and food motivated so they are eager to engage with enrichment and are very willing to participate in positive reinforcement training. They are all trained to voluntarily enter a transport crate and be calmly rolled down the hallway to our scale for their bi-weekly weight check. Since all four bears have done this since their arrival, we have been able to monitor their growth and health and they seem to enjoy the outing.
The practice of entering into (and coming out of) hibernation in bears is a complicated process that involves many environmental and physiological cues that lead bears to enter into dens, diminish their energy output and await greater food availability in the Spring. Since Oakland does not get overly cold even during winter we do not anticipate our bears entering a dormant period, though we have provided them with bedding material and space to den in should they chose to do so. During the Winter they will slow down in their consumption of food and be a little sleepier but even in the colder months the bears still enjoy playing in their pool, tearing apart boxes to get to their food and participating in training sessions. We even gave them some ice a couple weeks ago and basically had a repeat of this adorable ice video from June!
As we ring in the New Year and begin 2018 we wish you and your family good health and joy in the coming year. We also hope to see all of you in Summer 2018 when we open the California Trial expansion here at Oakland Zoo! Come say hello to our Black Bear family as well as Grizzly Bears, Bison, California Condors, Bald Eagles, Grey Wolves, Jaguars and our rescued Puma cubs! See you on the Trail!