The Polar Bear Habitat continuously strives to create the most beneficial environment for our bears to live in. We monitor our bears behaviour twenty-four hours a day, so we can create detailed management plans to ensure the bears have the most enjoyable atmosphere that we can provide. We can observe and note how each of the bears interact from a distance, and decide if placing two or more bears in direct contact would be in their best interest.
Ganuk has been with us since 2012, and as soon as Henry arrived in 2015 we started the process of introducing the two. This consisted of moving the bears closer and closer to one another, with some type of barrier. We allowed them to move closer, and for longer periods of time as they become more comfortable. If at any time we saw that the process looked unfavorable or disadvantageous to either of the bears, it would be terminated.
Henry and Ganuk showed great potential throughout the initial process, and after six months we decided to introduce the two and give them direct contact in one of our enclosures. The introduction went great meaning they both were able to be housed together year-round. After introducing Henry and Ganuk and seeing such great results, we decided to provide Inukshuk the same opportunity.
We began the introduction process of Inukshuk to both Henry and Ganuk in September of 2016 until May of this year. All bears showed great interest, exhibiting signs of choosing to sleep close and bringing toys to one another. After seeing these signs, and conversing with behavioural specialist, JoAnne Simerson, we decided to move forward with introductions. The plan was to introduce Inukshuk to both Henry and Ganuk, separately, in the spring of this year. Henry was first introduced to Inukshuk, then Ganuk with Inukshuk the next day.
The entire staff was very excited for these introductions, but cautiously optimistic. Inukshuk and Henry showed some initial interest in each other, The first interaction between them was a typical greeting followed by sparring, showing no aggression. After we felt comfortable putting water in the pool they spent time cooling off together, (no physical interaction). The day ended with each bear separating and entering our bear holding building on their own.
The next day we introduced Ganuk to Inukshuk. They initially interacted more, with some soft vocalizations and sparring. After sparring for a while, they both became hot and exhausted and ended their play. They began to show some negative behaviours when walking towards the pool together, but worked it out with some time. They eventually separated on their own after a few hours and entered bear holding.
On day three, we placed Henry and Inukshuk togeher again. It began very similarly to the first day, but the interest level did not seem to progress beyond the initial excitement of meeting a new bear, and it was decided although there didn’t seem to be any harm with them being together, it also didn’t seem to be overly beneficial either.
Our intentions for the introductions were to create the best environment for the bears. The amazing thing about our facility is that we can separate bears when they need to be or put them together when it looks beneficial. As both of our younger bears mature, we expect their behaviours will also constantly change. What is good today may not be tomorrow, and the animal care staff at our facility do their ultimate best at interpreting what the bears choose. At this time, we will vary when the Ganuk and Henry are placed together in an enclosure and when they’re separated, but Inukshuk seems to benefit most on his own for now. This variation will allow our bears to be comfortable in many different scenarios, and also grow and develop on their own. If our bears start showing more interest towards each other again, we can easily modify their behavioural management plans to spend more time together,
Inukshuk, Ganuk and Henry have taught us so much already about how male polar bears interact. We can’t wait to see what the future may bring.