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Enrichment is defined as any activity that improves or enhances an individual’s quality of life. In zoo animals, enrichment activities have been shown to encourage natural behavior. While past research has indicated that black bears do indeed benefit from enrichment activities (Forthman, Elder, Bakeman, Kurkowski, Noble & Winslow, 1992) little research has been conducted on individual differences in this area. Additional research done by Fagen R. and Fagen J. M. (1996) suggests individual differences in bear behavior, indicating that each bear has their own unique personality (Fagen & Fagen, 1996). The purpose of this study was to examine individual differences in how the bears responded to the familiar and novel enrichment items. The time spent with the items and the frequencies of various behaviors (e.g., foraging, interacting with items) was measured using an ethogram. Each bear was tested individually by shifting one bear at a time into an outdoor enclosure. The bear was able to stay within the yard for as long as they wanted, with 90 minutes being the maximum amount of time that spent in the area. Our findings indicate that there were individual differences in novel item preference along with amount of time the bears spent interacting with enrichment in the study area. This research is significant because it offers insight into the individual benefits of enrichment in black bears in a zoo enviroment. These findings can be applied to improve the wellbeing of black bears within a zoo environment and will hopefully renew interest in this important research area.


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  • Subject
    • Psychological Science

  • Institution
    • Gainesville

  • Event location
    • Nesbitt 3102

  • Event date
    • 23 March 2018

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Megan Hoffman