We are a rescue facility for polar bears. Our bears would not survive on their own in the wild, as they were all orphaned before having the chance to learn how to hunt or were born into human care. They will be with us for the rest of their lives.
We know the wild is the best place for polar bears, but as long as we have bears in our care, we are dedicated to offering them a life of choices and engaging activities, raising the standard of care for polar bears around the world, and learning as much as we can from them to help guide conservation efforts for wild bears.
We feed our bears a human-grade diet primarily made up of seal meat, seal blubber and seal oil, moose, and mackerel. They also eat a wide variety of fresh produce, peaking in the summer while their wild counterparts are generally fasting.
Fruits and vegetables allow us to give the bears additional sensory experiences and help them feel full without ingesting too many calories. This keeps them leaner in the hotter months, when they don’t need as much insulation.
It costs about $60 to feed one bear for one day.
Consider making a monthly donation to help with this cost.
Enclosures As much as possible, our bears choose where they spend their time, be it outside or inside, visible to the public or not. At certain times of the year, multiple bears can be in the same enclosure, which provides excellent mental and physical stimuli for both bears.
The Habitat boasts five enclosures, ranging in size from half an acre up to 21 acres, totaling more than 24 acres of pristine subarctic and boreal natural environment for the bears to roam. Our largest enclosure features a 10-acre lake, which becomes a platform of naturally forming ice for up to seven months of the year.
As much as possible, our bears choose where they spend their time, be it outside or inside, visible to the public or not. At certain times of the year, multiple bears can be in the same enclosure, which provides excellent mental and physical stimuli for both bears.
Our animal care staff offers each bear daily training sessions. Sessions can be outdoors or inside a specially-designed indoor training crate. Either way, the bears always have the choice whether to participate and are free to leave at any point during the session. They almost always choose to participate for its entirety.
During training sessions, animal care staff may reinforce certain behaviours that a bear has already learned or work to elicit a behaviour that will enhance the bear’s health or contribute to scientific research. These sessions also serve to improve communication and relationships between animal care staff and the bears.
Our bears are active participants in their own medical care. Certain aspects of their regular training, like opening their mouths or presenting their paws, allows animal care staff to check for injuries, for example. A trained veterinary technician performs a full-body exam on each bear once every two weeks with the bear’s cooperation.
Voluntary participation allows us to perform injections, swabs, and sample collection without sedation, during a stress-free interaction.
We are also working with our bears to have them voluntarily present their paws for the collection of blood samples. Blood is invaluable help evaluate overall health and diagnose illness. It provides information about the amount of certain biological compounds in the animal, and, in many cases, is allowing us to establish normal ranges for polar bears.
Enrichments are tools used to stimulate the bears’ senses. They can be anything from a training session with animal care staff to a sprinkling of cinnamon or oregano on the grass to an elaborate assembly of bear-safe materials designed to elicit natural behaviours from the bears. Enrichments are used by a number of facilities to improve an animal’s psychological and physiological well-being.
It may seem counterintuitive to put man made objects in the enclosures, since they are not in polar bears’ natural environment. But consider a plastic barrel: a recurring favourite. The bears often pounce on the barrels or try to sink them – behaviours that resemble how they might act in the wild, if they were breaking into seal dens through ice and snow. We cannot logistically (or ethically) provide them with live prey, so a barrel, for example, makes a reasonable alternative.
In addition to what our animal care team creates, the bears’ natural environment at the Habitat provides a number of enrichment opportunities. The spring-fed lake, soft ground substrate, and naturally occurring ice and snow present opportunities to interact with their surroundings. Our bears have the chance to dig into logs, swim with fish, and track local wildlife.