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Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

Life in Managed Care

Numbers of bears in managed care needs to be managed by two-pronged focus:

  • Restricting reproduction in managed care to avoid unwanted bears
  • Conservation measures to enhance natural habitats

Bears in managed care conditions need to exercise their great capacity for foraging for long periods of time; without this stimulation they are "purposeless and unchallenged." (Law & Reid 2010)

Bears in a managed care environment need as much physical and mental enrichment as do primates. (Law & Reid 2010)

In a new enrichment strategy as of 2010, 2 exhibit spaces connected for two young Grizzly Bears and an elderly Manchurian Brown Bear at the San Diego Zoo.

  • The bears now take turns using the whole area.
  • This intelligent and highly curious species benefits greatly from varied and new activities and a chance to smell tracks left by other bears.

At the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo, Japan a Japanese Black Bear successfully hibernated during the winters of 2006/2007 and again in 2007/2008. (Itoh et al 2010)

  • Time spent hibernating: 89 days; 68 days - within normal ranges for these bears.
  • Body mass decreased by 20%, a normal loss compared to bears in the wild.
  • This management strategy seen as enriching for the bears and of educational value for the zoo visitors

Captive-born bears should not be released into the wild. (Huber 2010)

  • Bears can only learn survival skills from their mother, in their natural habitat.
  • Only exceptions to the above: if orphaned cub had a mother for at least 6 months and the time was early summer; even so, a slim chance of survival as a free-ranging bear.
  • Bears seem to have fewer inherited skills and more learned skills than other carnivores


Brown Bear

Brown Bear in cave

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Huber (2010)
Itoh et al (2010)
Law & Reid (2010)

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