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Little Bear update

It’s been about four months since we posted about our newest black bear, Little. We’ve been sharing Little’s challenging and troubling journey with readers, as well as her recent progress made. (Really, click here to read the March update).

Gus, with Little, around one of the hollowed out logs

Soooooooo many positive strides have been made since March. If you’ve been following the Museum on social media you’ve probably seen videos of her swimming, eating with Gus, and swimming even more. I’ve personally seen her run through the yard, jump up in a tree, climb and shake it, turn around and climb back down, run around the yard, climb the cliff, and repeat. I’ve seen Mimi chase her too (good exercise for Mimi, and normal young / older bear interactive behavior!)

Little, scaling the side of the cliff face. She’s doing something only young, smaller bears can do, and she is now well enough to be expanding her behavior repertoire.

We’ve been doing our general Animal Care Welfare Assessments on Little bear. This is something that typically occurs annually for each of our critters. However, for Little, we’ve been doing it quarterly. Without going into great detail, we look at 12 different outcome categories and a lot of inputs. We have a simple scoring of -1 to +1.  In January 2022, her total score was -0.13, with six of the 12 categories measuring negative numbers. In March, it had jumped to +0.46, with only two categories registering negative numbers. In June 2022, her score was +0.75, with no individual category measuring below zero.


Little, left, with her mannequin on day one. On the right, I believe it was around day 2 or 3 when the mannequin had been “used” quite a bit (no longer white, new clothes needed, and regular resetting to the log seat). Today, the mannequin is no longer white, has received several different outfits, and is moved outside of the bear habitat since Little no longer needs it.


The mannequin in the photo above was (is) part of Little’s detailed behavioral management plan. In addition to the welfare assessment already mentioned, Little has an extensive spreadsheet where we track behaviors, responses, medicines, weight, weather, and much more, in qualitative and quantitative ways.

Below are several screenshots from Little’s Behavior Log. While it doesn’t give you many details, you can see the date in the far left column. The column that says “normal” has to do with any reactions to medications, and then there is her weight. I want to focus on the numbers on the right side of the screenshots. These numbers rank from 1-5 (5 being the worst possible, and 1 is basically normal), focusing on anxiety levels around four different behaviors. The lower the number, the better. Our beginning goal was to get her average below 3. As you can see, Little’s scores are dropping significantly. Yay!



Health and welfare monitoring are constant, for all animals, especially for Little. Her three medicines continue to be adjusted based on her weight. We’ll be using our current medicines and systems and documentation indefinitely. However, if she continues to maintain these positive changes, and the number of “good” days compared to “bad” ones stays high, we may be able to start limiting our interventions.

We’ve got a long way to go, but the steps forward these days outweigh the regression backwards. It’s wonderful to start to see Little thrive. It’s also wonderful to be part of the team that works so hard to support her success story.