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Of all the bears that once freely roamed the Golden State, the American Black Bear is now the only bear species found in California. It is estimated that the Black Bear population in California is between 30,000 and 40,000. These curious and intelligent animals have an excellent long-term memory, exceptional hearing, and eyesight like that of a human. In general, Black Bear are not aggressive towards humans and are naturally afraid of people. However, bears are opportunistic omnivores and always searching for food. Their sense of smell is ten times more powerful than a bloodhound, enabling them to smell food from miles away. It is often their keen sense of smell and dwindling habitat that cause bears to get in close contact with humans. In California, these bears face threats from human-wildlife conflict and wildfires due to climate change. Education is critical to coexist with bears; human habits and behaviors when visiting bear country are key to coexistence with bears. Oakland Zoo is committed to a California that co-habitats with our Black Bear. The zoo focuses conservation funds on the bears located in the Tahoe Basin region.
When residents and visitors leave food out or easily accessible, it causes conflict with bears that can lead to the death of a bear or a human.
Wildfires in Black Bear habitats have caused bears and other wildlife to become injured. If paw pads get burned, bears cannot walk; therefore, they cannot find food or water. When a mother bear is killed in a fire, it is difficult for a very young cub to survive. As fires burn through bear habitat, bears and other wildlife are forced out of the mountains at increased rates as they desperately search for food or water.
Oakland Zoo sponsors the Bear League’s Mat Deterrent Program as well as an engaging, informative, and interactive “coffee table book” currently in design to help educate visitors (and residents) about bears and bear safety.
Oakland Zoo provides state-of-the-art wildlife veterinary care for sick, injured, burned, or orphaned wild Black Bear through a long-standing partnership with California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The zoo’s veterinary team is poised to respond to a bear medical emergency. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to giving Black Bear the care they need at these critical times. Oakland Zoo will also care for a bear that has been injured and needs to be skillfully cared for before being relocated to a safe territory.
Oakland Zoo shares conservation issues facing Black Bear and empowering solutions to conserve them to the public through a variety of channels: Docents and Volunteers, Teen Wild Guides, Education Programs, Events, Exhibits, Campaigns, Keeper Talks, and media stories. Oakland Zoo also celebrates Bears and the conservation work being done to ensure their survival with special events at the zoo.
Oakland Zoo provides yearly professional development training for field partners, offering them a myriad of staff skills and resources to enhance conservation efforts
Oakland Zoo’s California Trail features a family of Black Bear with a special back story. After becoming habituated to humans, the mother and her cubs began entering neighborhood homes in search of food, creating a serious human-wildlife conflict. By working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oakland Zoo was able to provide a “forever home” for this bear family, which prevented the bears from being euthanized.