One of the most common questions that our animal care staff receive is ‘When are the bears being fed?’. The short answer is: multiple times a day, never scheduled and rarely during our Keeper Talk times. Now let me explain why.
Naturally, polar bears will eat a large portion of food in one sitting. A good example is when polar bears hunt and feed on their main source of food, seals! They will consume up to 150 lbs of seal in one sitting, which occurs roughly once a week throughout the winter months when they have the sea ice as a platform to hunt on.
Our bears’ daily diets are prepared a day prior, and portioned for 3-5 feeding sessions throughout the day. The time of day depends on how our bears are behaving. We use operative conditioning to reinforce positive behaviour such as playing, exploring and resting. When our animal care staff observe this type of behaviour, they will interact with the bears which in turn reinforces that behaviour. These sessions consist of important training opportunities that increase communication between our bears and their keepers, but also provide mental stimulus to our bears! Training sessions include husbandry training, medical inspections, recall training and much more. This ensures our bears have a great relationship with our animal care staff, with a clear channel of communication
Training sessions generally take place outside in one of our four enclosures throughout the day. Each bear will complete 3-5 training sessions per day, which can be viewed by the public next to our guest fences or through our viewer’s building windows. One important note is that our bears are rarely fed in our big pool. The reason for this is because we like to give our bears choice over their environment. Throwing food into the pool and forcing the bears into the water takes away their sense of control, which can lead to a stressful environment. Since our bears are not fed in the water, they are free to swim whenever they want. This results in our bears playing and resting in the pool much more often!
Our friendly and interpretative animal care staff enjoy educating guests on how and why we plan our training sessions during the day. If you would like to view or ask questions about our interesting training sessions, come join us in the morning or during our keeper talks that occur twice daily. All times can be found here.
Written By: Dylan McCart