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Brown Bear Cognition and Welfare

O'Hara, Sean; Chambers, Helen


Helen Chambers


The welfare of large-brained wide-roaming carnivores in captivity has been of longstanding public and professional concern. Bears are one such example. Ursids have unexpectedly large relative brain sizes, indeed showing brain size increases similar to those observed in canids. Bears also have considerable space requirements, with extensive home range sizes seen in the wild. Species with complex requirements often face difficulties when placed in artificial environments. Cognitive enrichment, however, may work to ameliorate this by providing stimulating mental challenges for individuals living in zoological settings. This case study explores the proposed benefits of cognitive trials. To do so, we exposed 17 captive European brown bears ( Ursus arctos arctos ) housed in UK zoos to two experimental tasks (1) a puzzle box and (2) an object-manipulation set-up. A total of 14 of the bears voluntarily engaged with the puzzle box, while 15 individuals interacted with the object-manipulation set-up. The bears that failed to interact with the tests were likely dissuaded due to the collective nature of testing, a lack of motivation or fear of novel objects. Cognitive stimulation, such as that provided in our study, offers one means of improving the welfare of captive bears. We advocate the use of cognition studies for zoo-housed bears to enrich their lived-experiences when housed in zoological settings. Information © The Authors 2023


O'Hara, S., & Chambers, H. (2023). Brown Bear Cognition and Welfare. #Journal not on list,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 2, 2023
Online Publication Date Oct 11, 2023
Publication Date Oct 12, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 12, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 1, 2023
Journal Animal Behaviour and Welfare Cases
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed


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