It has been roughly five months since the introduction of Ganuk and Henry. We are pleased to say that their relationship is going strong and both bears are showing positive improvements in their overall demeanor.
Henry especially has benefited from the companionship and guidance of an older bear. At three and half years old, he is considered a sub adult bear and is still learning to live life without his mom. At roughly two and half years of age, polar bear mothers push their cubs away once they are old enough to live on their own and it is time for the females to mate again. This behaviour was seen in Henry’s mother just prior to his move from Australia to Canada, suggesting that it was indeed time for him to move on.
Henry may not be Ganuk’s biological brother but this does not stop him from wanting to spend as much time as he can with his new big “brother”. Ganuk had happily lived separately from other bears at The Habitat for four years but has also shown an improvement in demeanour since the introduction. Ganuk was very reliant on his keepers and the enrichment they provided prior to Henry’s arrival. He would spend large portions of his day inside bear holding watching the keepers and would often approach the fence when they were walking around the enclosures. Now that he has a companion in Henry, he is far less interested in the keepers and will spend a lot more time outdoors. Henry has brought out the more playful side in a usually calm and stoic Ganuk.
In the morning, when the weather is cooler and the bears are reunited after a night of sleeping separately, the most active behaviours can be seen. Henry and Ganuk like to wrestle and spar, sometimes until the point they are so exhausted all they can do is sleep. It has taken some time for Henry to understand that Ganuk likes his space when he rests. Not long ago, Henry would sit and stare at Ganuk while he slept, something that Ganuk was not always happy about. We are happy to see that Henry has now developed the confidence to rest on his own or even go exploring while Ganuk is resting.
Polar bears are relatively non-vocal animals but, from time to time, small amounts of roaring and growling can be heard from the boys but rest assured, this is normal. An integral part of building the relationship between the two bears is to let them communicate their needs to each other without too much human interference. As keepers, we monitor this behavior closely and are ready to intervene if needed, although it has never come to this point.
Male polar bears are generally solitary animals, only coming together in the summer time when all bears are forced onto land and when mating with females in the spring. Taking this into consideration, we will monitor the bears’ behavior closely as the seasons change and Ganuk’s hormone levels rise in the winter. Thankfully, we have plenty of space and enclosures to be able to split the bears if any negative behaviours arise.
We are extremely happy with the growth and development of our boys’ relationship and take great joy in seeing them so happy together. We look forward to the future as Ganuk’s confidence grows and Henry matures into a fully grown polar bear.