By Erica Rymer, Events & Marketing Specialist
Sometimes we BEARly notice what is happening in our hometown habitats, but this week it’s time to be a bear - I mean - aWARE of bears! Bear Awareness Week, which is celebrated the third week of May each year, is a time to think about the important roles bears play in local and global ecosystems, and how we play a role in their protection!
There are three types of bears found in North America: polar bears, American black bears, and grizzly bears. Populations of all three of these species are being negatively affected by habitat loss and mortality at the hands of humans.
Your Akron Zoo is passionate about protecting all bears, but we are especially fond of our grizzly bears, Jackson and Cheyenne. Their story, though heartbreaking, is a great reminder of why we need bear awareness.
In Wyoming in 2011, there was a large female grizzly bear. Because of the large number of humans populating the state, much of her natural habitat was sprinkled with campers, houses, and even towns. The bear became accustomed to seeing humans, and started to associate them with food. She even grew comfortable entering nearby towns to look for snacks.
Since bears may pose a threat to humans, the US Fish and Wildlife Service was called to relocate the bear to her natural habitat. Unfortunately, the bear kept finding her way back to town. The US Fish and Wildlife Service gives bears three chances, but if a bear continues to return to populated areas, he or she must be humanely euthanized. Sadly, this was the case with this female grizzly.
Upon her passing, it was discovered that the grizzly had actually been a mother caring for two cubs. These young cubs, who would not have survived on their own, were adopted by the Akron Zoo. They were given the names Jackson and Cheyenne, after two cities in Wyoming.
For two years they lived at the Cleveland Zoo during the construction of our Mike and Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge area. When they finally arrived, Jackson and Cheyenne adjusted well to their new environment and are now a hit with zoo guests. The siblings enjoy swimming, running, and roughhousing, and they also learn quickly and participate in enrichment and training.
Though Jackson and Cheyenne are well loved and cared for, it is still important to remember that wildlife should stay wildlife, and a bear should be allowed to be a bear. If their mother had not been given human food their story would have turned out quite differently.
Remember that everything you do has an effect on the environment around you, and help us to keep bears BEARy happy in their natural habitats by protecting local ecosystems and leaving no trace! Also, if you really do want to interact with a bear, visit the Akron Zoo. It’s safer, and Jackson and Cheyenne would love to meet you!