US tab

Conclusion

Agonistic behaviors between the female and male black bear were frequently followed by the female bear moving into the treehouse to pace. Competition over the area where the bears were pacing, closest to the guests, was observed several times. Enrichment items, including the enrichment pool, were also a point of conflict, with both bears showing an interest in items the other bear was interacting with. Most frequently, it was the female bear that was observed leaving the area following conflict. The female bear may have an interest in guests and be unable to express her interest when the male bear is present. Thus, the female bear may be limited in what she can do by the male bear. It was expected that the two bears would influence each others' behaviors to some degree, but to the extent that the male bear had been observed was not predicted. The male bear paced more when separated from the female, which was the expected result. Both bears had only been separated from each other for a small amount of time prior to this, and it was expected to be stressful for the first couple of times the two were separated. Unexpectedly, the female bear paced less on days where she was separated. The observed decrease in pacing on days of separation is best explained by the lack of competition and territoriality from the male bear.

With both bears being raised by humans, there is some evidence that both bears were interested in the visitors to their exhibit. This is shown by both bears moving to stand against the chain link fence when a person moved into the back shed area with the bears. Finding that the female bear, in particular, did not pace in front of guests more as guest number increased could indicate that something was deterring her behavior. When noting that agonistic behaviors did occur when both bears were pacing in front of guests, typically resulting in the female bear moving to pace elsewhere, it is a reasonable conclusion that the male bear was the deterrent. Giving the bears more space from each other, with less competition over the guests, could mitigate some of the male's aggression and benefit both bears.

Captive bears that are fed more frequently pace less (Clubb and Vickery 2006). These bears would benefit from an increased feeding frequency. An enrichment item that randomly dispenses food throughout the day would perform that function and serve to break up the long, uninterrupted periods of stereotypic pacing the bears were observed performing.

Pacing in captive U. americanus has been shown to vary by season, with May and June being the months where pacing is more frequent (Carlstead and Seidensticker, 2001). The motivation behind pacing in these months is attributed to be an urge to look for mates (Carlstead and Seidensticker, 2001). Both of these bears were fixed, but that does not mean that the instinct to search for mates was completely lost. It should be expected to see a reduction in pacing in the fall and winter, regardless of actions taken to improve the bears' welfare. The success of actions taken to improve the bears' welfare will not be fully known until the late spring.

There is a need to begin actions that reduce pacing in both of the bears immediately, because stereotypic behaviors can shift to automatic processing (central processing), which will make further efforts to reduce the amount of pacing more difficult (Mason and Lathan, 2004). In these cases, even removing the initial cause of the behavior will not immediately reduce the stereotyped behavior. Pacing is often associated with poor welfare, and can be an indicator of stress. To ensure the health of both bears, steps should be taken to reduce pacing. One solution to help mitigate the stereotypic pacing and improve the welfare of the bears may be to open up the shed area during the day. The guillotine doors that lead into the shed had long scratch marks across them from the bears clawing at them, in an attempt to get into the shed. Both bears showed an interest in going back into the shed throughout the day. Stereotyped behaviors are likely caused by a desire to perform an action and an inability to perform the action (Clubb and Vickery, 2006). It is likely that being unable to access the shed is a contributing factor to the observed pacing. In addition, the exhibit area lacks privacy, with only a small corner below the treehouse that is not viewable to guests. Opening the shed would allow the bears to have some privacy from guests, and each other, during the day, another factor that may improve their welfare. Any actions taken to reduce the stereotypic behavior in the bears at the Central Florida Zoo can be evaluated for success in the future, with possible applications for zoos everywhere.

References>>