March 19, 2021

Bear Awareness Weekend

Happy Bear Awareness Weekend! As a member of the Saint Louis Zoo Carnivore Care Team, I have the privilege of caring for Grizzly bears, Huckleberry and Finley. Getting to know these individuals and learning about Grizzly bear natural behaviors are essential responsibilities in caring for these amazing bears. We study the species natural biology and apply this knowledge as the foundation for developing enrichments every day for the bears, so they have discoveries to make each day in their Zoo homes that they will find interesting, stimulating, and comforting.  An amazing natural behavior to observe is nest building. All bears are advanced nest builders, so it is very important to offer varieties of substrates to them daily, not only to build the nests, but also to have choices in nesting materials. Some favorites include leafy branches, straw, wood wool, grasses, leaves, bark and shavings. As they build their nests, you may see them rolling around or dragging nesting materials in their habitat to wherever they choose to make a nest, then of course the snuggling and napping.  - Carnivore Keeper, Carrie.

 #keepertakeover #bearawareness

 Grizzly bears are known for their sense of smell, but these animals are also known for their unique ways of interacting with each other and their environment. They can moan, grunt, growl and roar! They also use trees to leave their scent behind to make other bears, prey or predators aware of their presence. It’s kind of like leaving a note for the next animal visitor to the area. - Carnivore Keeper, Travis #keepertakeover #bearawareness

Meet Bjorn! He is our 4-year-old male Andean bear who lives in River’s Edge. Andean bears (also known as spectacled bears) are the only bear species found in South America. Andean bears are arboreal, meaning they spend much of their time in trees. They use their long, sharp front claws to climb and forage for food. They will also sometimes build platforms or nests in trees in which they will eat and rest. If you come to visit Bjorn, you will most likely see him resting on his tree platform, interacting with enrichment or foraging for food. This young bear is active, very smart and has a fun personality! Next time you visit the Zoo, make sure to visit Bjorn bear! – Carnivore Keeper, Mary #keepertakeover #bearawareness

Living the high life! Literally. Andean bears are known to be very adaptable to multiple habitats and elevations, ranging from the cloud forests in the Andes Mountains to rain forests, dry coastal deserts and high-altitude grasslands. To live in these areas, you have to be a very skilled climber. Luckily for them, they are one of the most arboreal bears, meaning they spend much time in trees. They use their long, sharp claws, which enables them to reach the tops of the tallest trees in rainforests or traverse steep terrain as high as 14,000 feet!- Carnivore Keeper, Travis #keepertakeover #bearawareness

The sun bear may be the smallest bear species out of the eight species of bears, but do not let their size fool you. Built into their tiny little frame, the sun bear has an amazing array of mechanisms that help it survive in the harsh, humid rainforests of Southeast Asia. Those long claws and very large canine teeth (which are the largest canines relative to size compared to any other bear) are handy weapons in a fight. If a predator were to grab on to part of their body during a struggle, the sun bear’s loose skin allows it to turn and bite its attacker. -Carnivore Keeper, Travis #keepertakeover #bearawareness

You can’t just take a bear to the doctor and plop them on the table for an exam. So, how do we monitor the health of our bears at the Zoo? Through positive reinforcement training! Polar bear Kali and grizzly bears Huckleberry and Finley have all learned to allow keepers to draw blood samples from their paws. Andean bear Bjorn and sun bear Rimba have perfected their “injection” training, allowing keepers and veterinarians to easily give them their shots when they need vaccinations. When you go to the doctor, you might get a cookie or a lollipop as a reward. Our bears get a little something for being good patients, too—usually grapes, peanut butter, apples, fish or honey! –Carnivore Keeper, Carolyn #keepertakeover #bearawareness