Bears are truly fascinating animals.  The ABR cubs were orphaned at an early age, and have not had the benefit of a mother bear teaching them.  Ordinarily, bear cubs spend about 16 months with their mothers, during which time she teaches them everything they need to know about being a bear in the wild.  Despite the fact that our cubs missed out on these important lessons, they display the behaviors that would have been taught by their mothers.  This shows us that most if not all of their behavior is instinctive and appears when needed.  The cubs are equipped with all the skills they need to survive in the wild.  We don’t really teach them anything – we just give them a safe place, nutritious food, and the time they need to grow and develop those behaviors.

Cub #216, Aster, is still in the acclimation pen.  But she displays a natural distaste for humans.  In this photo, even though she could not see the human curator, when she sensed (through hearing and smell) his presence she reacted with huffing and blowing, just as a bear in the wild would do.  In the photo we can see that she is very much on alert, as she looks up from her food.

Aster

Aster has sensed the curator is nearby.

The next photo shows #214, Charley B searching and digging around a stump to find food.  He might be finding insects or could be finding some of the acorns that the curator scattered in the enclosure.

Charley B

Charley B digs around the stump.

Now that fall is here, in addition to eating copious amounts of food, bears begin to think of dens.  In the north, many bears have already sought den sites and are preparing their dens.  Here in the south bears do not den as early, but it’s not unusual for them to start thinking about the upcoming denning season.  Even though the cubs have not experienced a den since they were born in one last winter, they will instinctively know what to do.  This photo shows Cub #208, Summer checking out one of the artificial dens in the Wild Enclosure.  She may be thinking of winter sleep, or may be looking for stray acorns – we can’t tell.

Summer

Summer enters one of the artificial dens.

It is amazing to watch these little orphaned bears as they respond to their instincts.