Bear Awareness Day 2006
The zoo just recently celebrated Bear Awareness Day - May 20, 2006. This was part of Defenders of Wildlife Bear Awareness Week. It was a lot of fun and went very well. Here's a rundown on what we did:
My coworkers put on two excellent, funny skits (the second one being better, I think, than the first since we had worked out a few kinks) on how you should and should not camp in bear country. Each skit had a good camper and a bad camper (or two). As each character did something another keeper (me, in this case) narrated what was going on and explained why it was good (making noise while hiking, using a bear resistant container, keeping a clean camp, etc) or bad (putting left over food in a cooler, throwing uneaten food in a trash can, feeding the birds, throwing food all over the ground, using perfumes, etc). After about 5 minutes of the skit we let the bears outside to walk through "camp."
Our male and one female (been together for 15+ years) went out in the morning. They calmly ambled through "camp" checking out everything.
Willie and Patty checking out the firehose hammock.
Willie and Patty checking out the metal trash can.
Patty checking out the picnic table with the bear resistant container.
Unfortunately she was just coming out of estrus so the male wouldn't let her explore much and he wasn't interested in exploring much of anything in "camp." In the afternoon, our other female went out. She checked out everything - knocked over the bear resistant container (into the moat, of course!), emptied the trash can, ate everything out of the cooler and pretty much did what any self respecting bear would do if they found those items within their reach. The cooler actually survived pretty good. There are only a few bite marks in it. All the guests were impressed at how fast, and easily, she ripped it open. I'll post pictures of that as soon as I get permission from the photographer.
There were also two presentations by Nathan Garnier (Texas Parks and Wildlife) on Black Bears in Texas and what Texas Parks and Wildlife is doing to bring them back into Texas. He explained why TPWD wanted to do this and what they've done in regards to public input and in preparation for bear/human conflict. Nathan and another TPWD employee, Ricky Maxey, also manned a booth in front of the bear exhibit with several different pamphlets on bears, etc. They also provided a interactive cd that allowed the guests to test their bear knowledge. The booth also displayed some of our biofacts (skulls, fur). Our gift shop even got involved by putting together a fabulous display on bears. Kelly (from our graphics/conservation department and an avid bear person) took several pictures and videotaped the two skits.
We are very thankful to Nathan and Ricky for coming out to Houston for our event and to all of the people (incl my coworkers, graphics dept, docents, conservation dept, gift shop, grounds, etc) who helped us put on another successful Bear Awareness Day. Now to start planning for next year's event!