Come Out and Play!

West Yellowstone’s Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center recently put their latest idea into action: introducing grizzly bears to an open exhibit area. In analyzing the different temperaments and personalities of their grizzlies in captivity, they decided upon a group of five bears. This included a 31-year-old female, a 17-year-old and a five-year-old, to name a few.

The bears are rustled up daily, ranging in time from 45 minutes to upwards of two hours. The staff not only reports that visitors are highly entertained viewing the bears, but also that the social contact and enrichment in the bears’ lives is very fulfilling. The bears mingle together – playing, chasing, watching or simply keeping their distance. In general, bears are solitary creatures, but they will gather for food. While the interactions are extremely positive, the center understands that bear-on-bear altercations are a natural part of the social learning process. These bears are learning that by socially interacting, their reward is food, which has proved to be a highly effective motivator.

In fact, the facility has received praise for their work with grizzlies in captivity and also embracing the fact that grizzly confrontations are normal in the wild. The staff assumes that small arguments are a normal part of the socialization process. By helping the bears adjust to captivity, the staff has noticed improvements in both their mental and physical attributes.

Generally, animals in captivity can suffer from the development of stereotypical behaviors, which includes purposeless and repetitive motions. Examples of these include biting themselves, pacing, self-grooming and retracing their steps in an almost obsessive pattern. This is often caused by boredom and stress, which triggers destructive patterns. By offering captive animals an enriched environment, it helps to decrease – and often can prevent – these behaviors from developing.

In extreme circumstances, animals can engage in abnormal behavior, which includes inflicting self-harm. This can include eye poking, biting, hitting, scratching, hair plucking and other related injuries. While this behavior is generally uncommon, it can be avoided by providing social stimuli to animals in captivity. This is especially helpful in reducing any potential anxiety-related behaviors and helps boost animals’ moods, making them happier and healthier.

By providing a stimulating and healthy environment for captive grizzly bears, the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is helping scientists learn more about the importance of this mammal to our ecosystem, their natural behaviors and socialization skills. Their research is vital to the protection of this threatened and endangered species.


Yellowstone Holiday is located in West Yellowstone. They offer a variety of West Yellowstone cabin rentals, including RV parks in West Yellowstone. A mere hop, skip and jump from Yellowstone National Park’s west entrance, Yellowstone Holiday is just miles from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. For those visitors interesting in camping in Yellowstone, the center offers helpful tips and advice about camping and hiking in bear country.

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