Access to Multiple Habitats Improves Welfare: A Case Study of Two Zoo-Housed Black Bears (Ursus americanus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Kelly Bruno, Cassidy Hubbard, Emily Lynch
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Using various forms of enrichment, animal care specialists encourage species-specific behaviors and discourage stereotypic behaviors. Within the zoo community, bears (Ursids spp.) are commonly housed, yet are prone to exhibiting stress-related behaviors. Here, we assess the effect of access to multiple habitats, including areas of off guest view, on the welfare of two American black bears (U. americanus) housed at the North Carolina Zoo. In this study, we looked at two behaviors, pacing and foraging to represent negative and positive welfare indicators. We performed logistic regressions to model the effect of access on these behaviors. Because having an animal visible to guests is important to consider when creating management plans, we also explored the effect of access on the bears’ visibility. We found that full access reduced the likelihood of pacing by an average of 13% and increased the likelihood of foraging by an average of 5%. Access to multiple areas reduced the probability of visibility by 57% for one individual but did not impact visibility of the other bear. This case study suggests the value of access to zoo animal welfare and should incite future research aimed at exploring the effects of access on various behavioral outcomes.


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