Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Black Bear Abnormal Stereotypic Pacing At Nature Center

A large male Black Bear repetitively pacing endlessly on his well- worn path at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, NC. Sadly, this is all too common behavior of large carnivores in zoos. This bear is making the exact same moves that polar bears and grizzly bears often make in captivity. There are many articles on this unfortunate side effect of putting large animals in captivity and what might be done - a few are linked below. The WNC Nature Center was clean and the people no doubt well-meaning and caring and the enclosure was actually quite large with boulders and trees etc., but this poor bear exists for a fair amount of time each day judging by the path he has worn pacing within an "imaginary cage" about 30 feet long. This "psychosis" and the very exaggerated head turns made at each end are classic symptoms many large bears display in captivity. The large Black Bear that I film in the wild in the Great Smoky Mountains each summer has a territory of thousands of acres and only visits every 10-14 days - perhaps this lack of territory has a lot to do with this captive bears behavior (see: https://youtu.be/r-byBTm43c8 ). I don't know the history of this bear, perhaps he was a rescue bear that had a hard cage-confined life in captivity starting at a young age. I have always had mixed feelings about zoos - preferring to see animals in the wild in their natural habitat - but zoos reach millions each year and large carnivores are a big draw, but they are the animals least suited to captivity.  There can be no enjoyment in seeing a captive animal exhibiting this behavior.  
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Black Bear Abnormal Stereotypic Pacing