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The goal of this study is to examine the cause of stereotypic pacing in two captive Florida black bears (Ursus americanus floridanus). Prior to the arrival of the bears at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford, Florida, they had been taken in by a family in north Florida and raised as pets. The brother and sister bears were confiscated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFWCC), where they were deemed unsuitable for release due to their past interactions with humans. The bears were eventually brought to the Central Florida Zoo in 2014 at approximately eight months of age. The male bear was neutered a year after his arrival at the zoo in order to prevent any aggressive behaviors from developing. The female bear was spayed mid-summer of 2017, which was followed by a marked decrease in aggressive behaviors and activity and an increase in anxious behaviors (UCF Study, 2017). The bears were not put into a viewable enclosure until late in the summer of 2017. Several interruptions, particularly Hurricane Irma, prevented the bears from being kept continually on display until late in the year. At the time of this study, the bears had been continually on exhibit for 6-8 months. Both bears showed a marked interest in people, getting as close to the fence as possible when a person walked too near. Likely due to this tendency and to prevent escape attempts, the bears' viewable enclosure had an electrified fence. The male and female bear had several names, as is consistent with zoo protocol, so to ensure clarity the bears will simply be referred to as "Male" and "Female."

Study Objectives

Few studies have been conducted on the behavior of human-imprinted U. a. Floridanus. General behavior of the captive bears was recorded. When the bears first entered the exhibit, the male bear paced more frequently than the female bear. Prior to this study, the zookeepers documented a notable change in the bears' behavior: the female paced more frequently than the male bear. As a result, the zookeepers hypothesized that the female bear would pace more than the male bear. Zookeepers also hypothesized that the bears would increase the amount of pacing when the zookeepers approached the bears, due to the anticipation of food.

One purpose of this study was to determine if there was a significant difference in the amount of pacing done by the male and female bear. Any differences found in the amount of pacing between the bears needed to be analyzed for causes. Outside causes of pacing were analyzed to evaluate their effect on the bears' behavior. These factors included pacing directed towards guests, zookeeper presence, and temporal separation of the bears. During this study, the zookeepers began to let only one bear out into the exhibit at a time. This approach was designed to give both bears a chance to interact with their various enrichment items without disturbance from the other bear.

Materials and Methods >>