Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is home to grizzly bears and American black bears. We chose this wilderness location for Advancing Bear Care 2011 so delegates could hike through bear habitat each morning and learn from long time bear biologists how these two species use their habitat for daily and seasonal living.  Each afternoon we held workshops to solve the husbandry problems brought up by delegates. In the evenings we reconvened to hear presentations from bear biologists and husbandry experts. We stayed at a triptych of hotels; the Banff Park Lodge, the Bow View Lodge and the Homestead Inn all located near the Bow River in Banff.



On opening night, Dr. Chuck Jonkell, gave his key note address encapsulating his remarkable life time of often pioneering experience in wild bear behavior,inspiring delegates to keep moving forward in their chosen fields. Dr. Ian Stirling gave his key note address presenting the compelling life of modern day polar bears challenged by global warming; urging delegates to continue with their welfare and conservation efforts. Carol Patterson, an inspiring speaker, spoke to us about nature deficit disorder in humans and what's possible when we focus on making a difference. Gail Laule led the evening's husbandry speaking session by presenting proper problem solving techniques for husbandry issues. Delegates and workshop moderators used these techniques to solve husbandry issues brought to the table during the workshops.




On each conference morning we divided into groups and hiked four spectacular trails; i/ theCascade Fire Road, ii/ the Healy Creek Trail, iii/ the Forty Mile Trail, and the Redearth Trail. These interpreted hikes were lead by renowned bear biologists; Dr. Chuck Jonkel, Dr. Mike Gibeau and Wayne McCroy.  Charlie Russel was also to have led hikes but on his way to the conference he crashed his ultra light airplane.  Sore but alive he walked away from it and was annoyed at having to spend the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in the hospital. This is Charlie's 4th crash in his beloved ultralight. On the trails of the Rockies hike leaders pointed out wild bear foods, scratching trees, bear scat, nesting sites, and old dens. We saw mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, ground squirrels and numerous species of birds of prey, jays, magpies, and other bird species - all of whom share brown bear and black bear habitat.




Each afternoon experts in various fields lead species specific and topical workshops wherein delegates discussed and solved husbandry problems that they described. We would like to thank the following  experts for skilfully leading the problem solving sessions;  Christine Fenwick (American Black Bears), Robyn Appleton (Andian Bears), Jill Robinson (Asian Black Bears), Jason Pratte (Giant Panda, Developing Your Bear Training Program), JoAnne Simerson (Polar Bears), Kartick Satyanarayan & Geeta Seshamani (Sloth Bears), Siew Te Wong (Sun Bears), Gail Hedberg (Raising Neonates), Angelika Langen (Bear Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Workshop), Valerie Hare and Karen Worley (Developing a Bear Enrichment Progam), Jason Pratte (Developing Your Bear Training Program), Gail Laule (Problem Solving Workshop), and Judy Willard (People Skills Workshop).




Thank you to Christine Fenwick, Stacey Tarpley, Tracey Leaver, Valerie Stephen-LeBoeug, Christy Mazrimas-Ott, Erika Bauer, Mindy Babitz, Kimberly Warren, Rebecca Zwicker and their coauthors who participated with poster presentations.  A well earned congratualtions to Rebecca Zwicker from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo whose poster A Natural Fit - Incorporating Natural Behaviors into Bear Training Demonstrations won the Best Overall and Most Innovative Husbandry Concepts awards.  Congratulations also to Christine Fenwick of the San Diego Zoo whose poster Regulation of American Black Bear Rehabilitation in the United States won the Greatest Value to Resident Bears award.  The winners received signed copies of Dr. Ian Stirling's latest book Polar Bears - A Natural History of a Threatened Specie.




Bear biologists were invited to speak to us in evening presentations about how wild bears use their natural habitat for daily and seasonal living.  Our many thanks to Chuck Jonkel, Ian Stirling, Mike Gibeay, Wayne McCroy, Robyn Appleton, Siew Te Wong and Katrick Satyanaraya for teaching us about wild bear behavior.  Bear Husbandry experts were also invited to speak on topical husbandry issues.  Thank you to Gail Laule, Valeri Hare, Jason Pratte, Gail Hedberg, Angelika Langen, Heather Bacon, Jill Robinson, Nicola Field, Geeta Seshamani and Else Poulsen.  The presentations were often inspiring and always educational.  The Advancing Bear Care 2011 progam and abstracts can be downloaded here.




Thank you to all who participated in the Silent Auction by making item donations and out doing each other in the bidding frenzy that ensued.  Lory Palmer, our Silent Auction Coordinator once again did the impossible. She and her enthusiastic volunteers did a fantastic job with this fund-raising event.

The Calgary Zoo hosted 50 of our delegates on Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. After an informative presentation by Jake Veasey on their future plans for North American bears, we enjoyed the day investigation the zoo grounds.  Many thanks to Jake Veasey, Colleen Baird, Jamie Dorgan, and Lisa McDonald for their western hospitality.




A van full of intrepid delegates drove to Smithers, British Columbia via the Banff-Jasper Highway and then west on the Yellowhead Highway. This 15 hour trip was well worth it as we were warmly welcomed by Angelika and Peter Langen founders of the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter and their staff.  This remarkable rehabilitation facility rescues all species of indigenous wildlife including American black bears and grizzly bears.  On our trip we observed a wild adult female American black bear with her yearling cub, a Canadian lynx, a wolf, coyotes, white tailed deer, mule deer, elk, a female moose, numerous species of birds of prey, and many species of jays, magpies and other birds.




We would like to thank this very special group of sponsors without whose support this conference would not have been the success it was; Active Environments, Animals Asia Foundations, Ali Van Zee, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation, Calgary Zoo, Discover Banff Tours, Great Bear Foundation, Hauser Bears, Kalahari Management, The Kerulos Center, Mazury, McCroy Wildllife Services Ltd., Mo Brown, Northern Lights Wildlife Society, Polar Bear International, Rite in the Rain, Shape of Enrichment, Spectacled Bear Conservation-Peru, Whistles for Life, Wildlife SOS, World Society for the Protection of Animals.




We want to thank Kent Hedberg for his IT skills, time and patience.  Many thanks also to Tony Colonnese for skillfylly transporting this years 120 conference T shirts across the US-Canada border without national incident.

To all of our wonderful delegates who have attended this and our previous conferences we thank you - thank you for networking, educating, learning and sharing.

Robyn Appleton

Robyn is the founder and research director for Spectacled Bear Conservation - Peru (SBC), a Canadian registered non-profit. Through scientific research, environmental education, and community outreach SBC was established in 2007 to ensure the conservation of the spectacled bear in the equatorial dry forest of northern Peru. Robyn holds a double honors degree in wildlife management and culture geography, and a professional masters degree from Simon Fraser University's Department of Resource and Environmental Management, specializing in spatial landscape and black bear ecology. Particular questions from Robyn's current research on spectacled bear ecology and behavior will be presented in her doctoral thesis in applied conservation biology and is the first behavioral study to have been conducted on wild spectacled bears. Robyn has presented these findings around the world at international conferences such as the IBA conference in Monterrey Mexico where she won the award for best presentation. More recent presentations were at the symposium on Andean Bears, Lima, Peru, for the Society for Conservation Biology, Beijing, China, and at Advancing Bear Care 2009 in San Francisco, California.

Dr. Heather Bacon

Heather graduated from the University of Liverpool, UK with a first class Intercalated Honours degree in Veterinary Conservation Medicine and from the University of Bristol, UK with her BVSc (DVM) Veterinary degree. She has obtained her postgraduate Certificate in Zoological Medicine from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Heather has worked with a large variety of captive and free ranging wildlife both in the UK and abroad as well as numerous domestic animal species. Heather previously worked in China for 3 1/2 years as the Veterinary Director of the Animals Asia Foundation, a charity committed to improving standards of animal welfare. She is currently working as Veterinary Welfare Education and Outreach Manager in the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE) at the University of Edinburgh, responsible for developing continuing education programmes for zoo, wildlife and domestic animal veterinarians in Europe and Asia. Heather's main interests are in veterinary education, anaesthesia, infectious disease prevention and captive wildlife management.

Nicola Field

Nicola Field is the Veterinary & Bear Team Manager at Animals Asia Foundation's Moon Bear Rescue Centre, China, where she has worked for nearly five years. She heads up the veterinary and bear-keeping staff taking care of the bears, dogs, cats and macaque onsite. Her main role is ensuring optimum care of all the animals on site withthe support of a fantastic team, as well as promoting the work of the organization and bear care. She has an MSc in Wildlife Biology & Conservation, as well as Animal Management qualifications. Nicola worked for nearly 10 years as a keeper in the UK, taking care of a variety of species, including North American black bears. She spent two years in education in the UK working as an animal-care assessor. She has also spent time working in Uganda and Vietnam as a researcher on conservation projects and also at the Colobus Trust in Kenya.

Dr. Micheal Gibeau

Michael ‘Mike', a renowned bear biologist has spent close to 30 years working in Canadian National Parks, originally as a Park Warden and now as a biologist. He is the Carnivore Specialist for Parks Canada and an Adjunct Professor in the Geography Department at the University of Calgary. Mike has extensive experience in the ecology and management of large carnivores including research on grizzly bears, black bears, coyotes, and wolves, with a decade of research dedicated to investigating the impacts of human activity on grizzly bears. Much of his time is spent coordinating grizzly bear conservation and policy programs in the mountain National Parks. He also advises decision makers on management of large carnivores in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Valerie Hare

Valerie 'Val', is recognized internationally as a leading expert in captive wildlife environment enrichment.  Val co-founded The Shape of Enrichment, Inc. in 1991 and has been a principal ever since.  In 2000, Valerie presented an enrichment mini-course has evolved into The Shape of Enrichment Workshop and is designed to assist interested animal caretakes create enrichment plans for the animals in their care.  Valerie is currently the Chief Financial and Workshop Coordinator for The Shape of Enrichment Inc..  Valerie has worked as a Research Animal Care Supervisor (Massachussetts General Hospital), Zoo Keeper (San Diego Wilf Animal Park), Behavioral Research Technician (San Diego Zoo), and Enrichment Consultant.  As an enrichment consultant she has worked with giant pandas, polar, brown, spectacled and sun bears.  Valerie holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with Zoology emphasis from San Diego State University and an Associates Degree as a Veterinary Technician from State University of New York.

Gail Hedberg, RVT

Gail, known internationally as a neonatal care expert for exotic animals, has worked successfully with numerous species of fauna as vastly different as polar bears, panda bears, tigers, giraffes and gorillas. Gail was hand-picked from a national pool of candidates to head the critical neonatal care team preparing for the anticipated birth of a Giant Panda cub from six year old Lun-Lun at Zoo Atlanta after having been artificially inseminated. Gail's most challenging project was successfully hand-rearing an infant polar bear cub. This occurred at a time with limited information and few successful outcomes. She is the author for chapters on hand-rearing both polar bear and exotic felids in a book titled Hand Rearing Wild and Domestic Mammals. This reference book is for those professionals in zoo and wildlife settings seeking hand-rearing protocols. For the last 10 years she has been lead researcher in a ground breaking nutritional study focused on analyzing milk and blood samples from wild caught polar bears, sponsored by Polar Bears International. Her work has just been published and provides the most comprehensive polar bear milk composition results.

Dr. Charles Jonkel

Charles ‘Chuck', a renowned bear biologist will be delivering our key note address. For over 50 years, Chuck has devoted his life to the study and conservation of wild bears and their habitat. A pioneer of bear biology, Chuck was one of the first four researchers to study black bears in the field after the invention of the dart gun, and the Canadian government sought him out to lead their groundbreaking research on wild polar bears. Chuck compiled the first reliable, comprehensive scientific data-base on wild polar bears. He and others set up the Polar Bear Specialist Group in the IUCN [International Union of Conservation of Nature] creating a framework of co-operation among the five countries with polar bear populations. This became a model for all IUCN specialist groups.

Angelika Langen

Angelika, a wildlife rehabilitator, is internationally known for her expertise on wild bear rehabilitation. In 1989, Angelika and Peter Langen founded the Northern Lights Wildlife Sanctuary in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada. Angelika and Peter are professionally trained zookeepers from Germany. Although all mammals and birds are accepted at Northern Lights, the shelter has become a haven for bears, moose, and deer species. To date, more than 190 black bears, 6 grizzly bears, and 2 Kermode bears have been/are being rehabilitated for successful release back into the wild.

Gail Laule

Gail, internationally known as a pioneer in training techniques to gain the voluntary cooperation of captive animals for husbandry and veterinary purposes, co-founded Active Environments in 1985. She co-developed the highly effective social management technique called ‘cooperative feeding' which has since been documented to reduce aggression and increase positive social behavior with numerous species. Also she co-developed the now widely used ‘protected contact' training method, a positive reinforcement-based system for managing elephants. Gail received her Masters degree in Behavioral Science from California State University, Dominquez Hills. She now works full-time as a consultant helping zoos, biomedical facilities, and sanctuaries develop behavioral management programs to improve captive animal care and well-being. Her years of experience has lead her to develop a highly effective animal behavior problem solving methodology which she now teaches. Gail is also president of Wildlife in Need, a US-based non-profit and sister organization to AE, that is currently engaged in conservation and animal welfare projects in the Philippines.

Wayne McCroy

“If grizzlies escape extinction, it will be in no small part because of Wayne's efforts. Wayne has fought tenaciously for the protection of bears. He has succeeded beyond anyone else in the province.” David Suzuki.  Wayne, a renowned bear biologists, is one of the original founders of the Valhalla Wilderness Society.  Wayne's career as a bear conservationist began in 1983 with the successful campaign to protect the Valhalla Range.  He led the charge to save the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary in 1993 with the successful campaign to protect the Valhalla Range. He led the charge to save Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary in 1993 and the White Grizzly (Goat Range) Provincial Park in 1995.  Collectively, these areas represent almost half a million acres of protected habitats for bears in the Interior and Coastal Temperate Rainforests.  In 2009, the Government of British Columbia announced the protection of 135,000 ha called the Spirit Bear Protection Area, which Wayne spearheaded to protect the coastal rainforest home of the White spirit bear, grizzly bears and over 60 salmon streams.

Carol Patterson

Carol is internationally known as an ecotourism industry consultant and speaker, who has authored numerous books most notably “The Road Less Travelled: Finding Unconventional Work/Life Solutions”. For her life's work to marry ecotourism to community responsibility she has won the prestigious Woman of Vision Award from Global Calgary TV, the Calgary Herald, and the YWCA. When asked to encourage this group of bear professionals with one of her inspiring and humorous presentations, Carol quoted her favorite wildlife hero and said, “Scratch the surface of every worthwhile wildlife organization and you'll find one slightly-crazed zealot who started it (or is keeping it going)”. Hhhmm, seems to fit our delegates!

Jason Pratte

Jason, ‘Jay' is internationally known for his training and enrichment work excellence with large carnivores. He has been an animal caregiver for almost two decades, and feels privileged during his tenure to have worked with all eight extant bear species. His primary focus is training, both of the animals in our care, as well as of their caregivers. Behavioral husbandry training of bears and carnivores is his specialty, focusing on complex medical behaviours. The past several years has seen Jay involved with training animal keepers and caregivers around the world in operant conditioning techniques, with one of these adventures showcased on Animal Planet's "Growing Up Panda". Jay is on the AAZK National Behavioural Management Committee and also the AAZK Grants Committee. Jay is the Behavioral Husbandry Manager for Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo. In April he will complete his Masters degree in Zoo and Aquarium Management.

Charles Russell

Charles ‘Charlie', an internationally respected bear behaviorist, is the founding director of the Pacific Rim Grizzly Bear Co-Existence and is on the faculty at The Kerulos Center. Renowned worldwide for his ground-breaking work successfully rehabilitating and releasing orphaned grizzly bear cubs in Kamchatka, Russia, Charlie has spent over 48 years closely observing the behavior of these animals in their natural habitat. A former rancher and guide, Charlie is an author, photographer, and self-taught pilot. Charlie's visionary and courageous work has overthrown countless widely held convictions concerning the nature of grizzly bears.

Dr. Jill Robinson MBE

Jill, an internationally celebrated animal welfare expert, founded the Animals Asia Foundation in 1998 which is devoted to the welfare of wild and urban animals in Asia. Their Moon Bear Rescue campaign is focused on bringing the barbaric practice of bear farming and the bile trade to an end. Currently, AAF has approximately 250 rescued bears in their China and Vietnam sanctuaries. They have signed agreements with the Chinese and Vietnamese governments to rescue 700 additional bears from the torture of bile farms, and bring them to the sanctuary for mental and physical rehabilitation, to live out their lives in peace and safety. The AAF works hard to reduce the demand for bile in Asia by promoting affordable, effective, and cruelty-free alternatives. They have successfully closed down 43 Chinese farms and seen 20 of mainland China's 31 provinces become proudly bear farm-free. For her valiant and courageous work Jill was honored by the appointment as a Member of the British Empire (MBE).

Kartick Satyanarayan

Kartick started his wildlife conservation work on Tiger Ecology Research while still at college. In 1995, he founded Wildlife SOS with co founder Geeta Seshamani. Wildlife SOS changed Indian history by establishing India 's largest bear sanctuary and rescuing over 600 Sloth Bears in less than a decade bringing an end to the centuries old barbaric practice of Bear Dancing across India, which had started as an entertainment for Mughal emperors! Wildlife SOS works across India with an intelligence network of informers and with enforcement authorities to tackle wildlife crime. Wildlife SOS also operates four rehabilitation centers for Sloth Bears and two rehab centers for Asiatic Black Bears (Moon Bears). Kartick heads Forestwatch which is the anti poaching division of Wildlife SOS and has his share of dangerous encounters with poachers and wildlife criminals as he works with Government enforcement agencies across India to help control poaching of bear cubs. He is an Honorary Wildlife Warden for the Delhi Government and a member of the IUCN Bear Specialist Group. Kartick is also a member of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, the Central Zoo Authority, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority Leopard Conflict committee. He is a TED fellow and an invited speaker at national and international venues including the Royal Geographical Society in London and the Miami, Seattle, Perth, and Singapore zoos.

Geeta Seshamani

Geeta's involvement in wildlife conservation started in 1979 when she started working with the animal rescue organization Friendicoes SECA in New Delhi. Geeta is a Delhi University English Professor by day and her passion is wildlife conservation and research. Geeta has been a member of the Central Zoo Authority and the Animal Welfare Board of India. She has received several life time achievement awards and felicitations. Geeta co founded Wildlife SOS with Kartick Satyanarayan and spearheaded the Kalandar Rehabilitation Project which successfully reduced demand for bear cub poaching through education and alternative livelihoods for the community thus creating a sustainable solution to achieve sloth bear conservation. This helped bring to an end the brutal practice of Bear Dancing in India. Geeta's area of interest is the fostering of sloth bear and Asiatic black bear cubs, and exploring practical solutions to reintroducing them in the wild.

Dr. Ian Stirling

Ian, renowned world wide for his polar bear expertise, is a Research Scientist Emeritus with Environment Canada and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta. In his 44 years of experience, Ian has done research on polar bears, and arctic and Antarctic seals. Specifically he has studied the ecology, behaviour, and evolution of polar bears, and their biological relationships seals. He has won several awards, including the Northern Science Award, an Officer in the Order of Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He was President of the Society for Marine Mammalogy (1996-1998), and was Chair of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group (1981-1985). Dr. Stirling was a long-time member of the Canadian Federal-Provincial-Territorial Polar Bear Technical Committee, and of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group.

Siew Te Wong

Siew Te ‘Wong', is a Malaysian wildlife biologist renowned internationally for his research on the ecological conservation of sun bears, and his compassion for sun bear welfare. His pioneering studies in sun bear ecology in the Borneo rainforest revealed the elusive life history of the sun bear in the dense jungle. Wong's research has taken him to the most threatened wildlife habitat on earth, where field work is exceedingly difficult. While rapid habitat destruction from unsustainable logging practices, the conversion of the sun bear's habitat into palm oil plantations, and uncontrolled poaching activities paint a bleak picture for the future of the sun bear, Wong is determined to help the present situation of sun bears in Southeast Asia. Wong is the CEO of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, which he founded in 2008. Wong is also the former co-chair of the Sun Bear Expert Team, under the IUCN/Species Survival Commission's Bear specialist Group and a current member of three IUCN/SSC Specialist Groups.

The Bear Care Group is a non-profit group dedicated to the continued organization of international bear husbandry conferences, programs, publications, and resources for bear caregivers at sanctuaries, rehabilitation facilities, and zoos. This website provides the most recent information and easy access to all conference needs including; conference and hotel registration, transportation info, and more.

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