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A relatively high number of rehabilitated brown bear cubs have been released over the last years. However, do we know if these bears behave normally? Or do they present any kind of different behaviour compared with the totally wild ones? In this project a team from Fundacion Oso de Asturias (FOA) in Spain, together with experts from ARCTUROS and the IUCN Bear Specialist Group want to describe and compare the behaviours of released brown bears that have gone through a captive-rearing process (i.e. rehabilitated) with independent subadult bears that have been raised within their family group in the wild.

Specifically, the team wants to compare daily activity and movement patterns of subadult brown bears and their use or avoidance of anthropogenic habitats. On the other hand, the team also wants to evaluate complementary bear data considering other brown bear populations (e.g. British Columbia) or other bear species (e.g. American and Asiatic black bears).

The results of this study may be of particular interest for the management orphaned, wounded, or abandoned bear cubs, giving knowledge of how they behave after their release.

Two circus bears were ‘rescued’ by a Spanish NGO and brought to their ‘sanctuary’ called El Arca de Noé near Benidorm. The female turned out to be pregnant and gave birth to two cubs. The bear family was confined to a small and filthy cage at the shelter and lived under dreadful conditions. The bears did not get proper food and water, and didn’t receive any vet care. Besides to the bears, many other ‘rescued’ animals were confined to a life of suffering.

Early in 2009, Bears in Mind received a Bear Alert about these bears. After a thorough preparation, the bears were rescued and transported to the Bear Forest in Rhenen, just before Christmas of 2009!

After the authorities closed-down the shelter, two dozen lions, tigers, jaguars, puma, leopards, smaller cat species, but also chimps needed a new home. Most were relocated to Spanish zoos or shelters, amongst them the Primadomus sanctuary operated by AAP.

A new life for the bear family
In the Bear Forest the bears started a completely new life. First they had to stay in quarantaine to get used to their new surroundings and receive a complete medical check-up. The bears’ teeth were checked and treated. As a result of the horrible living conditions and bad food, their teeth were severely damaged, which meant that several teeth had te be extracted. Two bears received rootcanal treatments. The two older bears (Bruce & Ronja), one of them blind and one deaf, could succesfully be introduced in the Bear Forest in July 2010 where they truly enjoyed the space, the pond and the company of the other bears! The two young bears, Pepe and Pedro, were relocated to bear sanctuaries in Germany. 

Unfortunately, old bear Bruce died in the summer of 2011. He had a fantastic year before he passed away. He loved swimming and played a lot with the other, much younger, bears of the Bear Forest, despite the fact that he was blind. Bear Ronja died at the end of 2012 due to a brain tumor.

Blind Bruce in his former prison…
Bruce on the left and Duuk on the right.
Ronja enjoying a bath in the pond of the Bear Forest.