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Individual Effects of Seasonal Changes, Visitor Density, and Concurrent Bear Behavior on Stereotypical Behaviors in Captive Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus)

Kelly, Krista R., Harrison, Michelle L., Size, Daniele D., MacDonald, Suzanne E.
Journal of applied animal welfare science 2015 v.18 no.1 pp. 17-31
Ursus maritimus, animal welfare, females, males, seasonal variation, spring, stereotyped behavior, winter, zoos
Stereotypical behaviors in captive polar bears (Ursus maritimus) can be detrimental to their welfare. These behaviors can be reduced through enrichment programs but are often not completely eliminated, so identifying potential triggers is important. The present study investigated the influences of seasonal changes, visitor density, and concurrent bear activity on stereotypical behaviors exhibited by 3 captive polar bears at the Toronto Zoo. All bears exhibited these behaviors; however, individual differences were found in duration and form. The male exhibited less stereotypical behavior during spring, and the females exhibited less stereotypical behavior during winter. An increase in visitor density was associated with more stereotypical behavior in 1 female but less stereotypical behavior in the other 2 bears. All bears engaged in more stereotypical behaviors when the other bears were inactive, and 1 female engaged in more stereotypical behaviors when the other bears were out of sight. Further, when conspecifics were active, all bears engaged in less stereotypical behaviors. Given the variability among individual bears, future enrichment programs must be tailored to the needs of individuals to maximize efficacy.