To foster improvements in global bear welfare and conservation through communication, cooperation, and education among international bear care professionals.

How do we accomplish this?

Advance and share information on bear behavior, husbandry, enrichment, training, veterinary care, and other welfare-related topics.

Organize bear care conferences and workshops focused on educating and sharing information to improve global bear welfare.

Produce publications and resources to support bear care professionals in achieving excellence in bear husbandry and care.

About Us

Else has over forty publications to her name and a big part in the textbook Stereotypic Animal Behavior – Fundamentals and Applications to Welfare, 2nd Edition. Her first bear book Smiling Bears – A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears was published in May 2009. Her second book, Bärle’s Story - One Polar Bear's Amazing Recovery from Life as a Circus Act was released in Spring 2014.

Lifetime Honorary Director, Founding President (deceased)

Else M. B. Poulsen

Annemarie has worked with Asiatic black bears and sun bears for more than a decade; she trained bear keepers to provide the best possible care,  she handreared many orphaned cubs and together with a dedicated team established Animals Asia's bear rescue centre in Vietnam. Annemarie is the co-founder of Global Animal Welfare, an NGO who facilitates optimum care in wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centres, promoting good welfare and encouraging suitable release.


Annemarie Weegenaar

Heather is a veterinarian at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) school of veterinary studies. She has worked internationally on veterinary education and animal welfare projects for 15 years, with a focus primarily on bear health and welfare around the world. She works with a variety of stakeholders to improve bear welfare through clinical care, education and training, and is responsible for delivering  UK zookeeper training courses in animal health, behaviour and welfare. Previously, she worked as the Veterinary Director at the Animals Asia Foundation, an NGO working to end the trade in bear bile across Asia.


Dr. Heather Bacon

Angela Gibson


Angela has a background in animal behavior, completing a Master’s degree from Missouri State University in Biology. She is passionate about improving the captive welfare of bears, focusing primarily on the behavioral husbandry needs of North American species, developing welfare assessment techniques, and the husbandry management of seasonality.  She is on the steering committee for Bear TAG, Bear Alliance, and has been a BCG Director since 2016. 

Kristina is a bear biologist, philanthropy officer, and communications professional focused on animal welfare and the environment. She earned her Master's degree from Johns Hopkins University in environmental science and policy with a specialization in wildlife management and conservation biology. Kristina is the bear biologist, grant writer, and editor at Bear Sanctuary Prishtina in Kosovo, where she cares for and conducts behavioral studies on 20 Eurasian brown bears and stray dogs.

Communications and Philanthropy

Kristina Madarang Stahl

Angelika and her husband Peter founded the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, BC, Canada in 1990. Both formerly worked as trained zookeepers in German zoos and opened their shelter to all BC wildlife in need of help. The shelter quickly became specialized in bear and ungulate rehab; birds are typically triaged to other shelters. In 2007 NLWS formed a historic partnership with the BC Government to start grizzly bear rehabilitation and became the first licenced grizzly rehab center in the world. NLWS now works well beyond the borders of BC offering assistance to anyone interested in rehabbing around the world. www.wildlifeshelter.com


Angelika Langen

Gail's career and commitment to veterinary medicine has encompassed all types and varieties of animal care. As a registered veterinary technician, her job has included assisting with anesthesia, hand-rearing, radiography (digital), surgical nursing, and various medical procedures on zoo, aquatic and wildlife species. As a neonatal care specialist, Gail is a well known international consultant for hand rearing. She has published her work in both peer review journals and has written the chapter for the hand-rearing of polar bears and felids in the book Hand Rearing Wild and Domestic Mammals.   www.gailhedberg.com


Gail Hedberg

Bear Care Group

In 2007, a symposium for bear experts from around the world was hosted in Pomona, California.  Nearly 100 individuals came together to present on bear husbandry and welfare related topics. It was clear from the engaged discussions and feedback that a need existed for a group dedicated to developing resources for bear caregivers.  Creating a recognizable network to connect bear caregivers around the world, providing resources to improve their knowledge and skills, would consequently improve the lives of all bears. Else Poulsen was one of the original symposium hosts, and upon recognizing this need immediately laid plans to create the non-profit The Bear Care Group (BCG).  The BCG was incorporated less than a year later by several original founders from various disciplines.  This team began working on researching and providing resources, advice and guidance to bear caregivers worldwide.  Else’s vision was for the BCG to be a non-partisan entity, welcoming people from all disciplines (zoos, sanctuaries, rehab, field research…) into discussions, teaching and learning opportunities in an effort to increase understanding and care of all bears.


Since the inception, BCG have maintained a listserv to discuss any bear-related topics, a Facebook group to encourage discussion and sharing of resources via social media, and our primary website (recently updated!).  The BCG has also planned and hosted several international “Advancing Bear Care” conferences in both North America and Europe, inviting regional and international delegates to attend, learn and share their insight on bear care methodologies.   As the BCG network grew, collaborations with other organizations dedicated to bear welfare that Else and the Board members were familiar with developed, increasing our understanding of issues impacting bear species in different countries.  This led to the BCG partnering with organizations like Animals Asia and Wildlife SOS to host workshops tailored to meet the needs of caregivers facing unique challenges, such as bile farming or trafficking.  The BCG developed an evolving curriculum based on input from our partners and impacts on the bears to provide new insights and ideas on addressing issues affecting the animals and their caretakers.  Over time, BCG has been able to use the nonprofit monies generated by the conferences to fund these regional workshops, often hosted in low-middle income areas. Long-time sponsors and donors aid in providing grants and expertise.


From the beginning, Else worked with many groups and individuals dedicated to improving the lives of bears.  The BCG continues to meet Else’s original vision, while evolving to remain apace of current science and our understanding of bear welfare.  Our Board remains diverse, dedicated and excited to continue moving forward. BCG encourages you to join our network and bring your knowledge and skills to the table.  Else Poulsen was the original founder and force behind the Bear Care Group, a true hero for bears everywhere. It remains up to all of us to continue her legacy.  BCG welcomes you to the Bear Care Group.

Mindy has been an animal caregiver for more than two decades, specializing in zoo husbandry and welfare for sloth bears. As a Senior Animal Keeper at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, she is the Institutional Representative to the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group and the Sloth Bear Species Survival Plan; she also conducts behavioral research with bears in an effort to improve their management in zoos.

Vice President and Treasurer

Dr. Mindy Babitz

Jay has been internationally known for animal behavior and welfare expertise for nearly three decades, working with game farms, sanctuaries, and accredited zoos, and species ranging from ant colonies to giant pandas. A founding board member and President of the Bear Care Group, he has a Masters degree in Zoo and Aquarium Management, has authored numerous publications, and is co-editor for AAZK’s “Training Tales” in the Animal Keeper’s Forum. Jay is adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, teaching Animal Behavior classes/labs, and his own course “Animal Welfare and Human Influence”.

Jason Pratte


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Bear Care Group  
501(c) 3 -  tax identification number is 26-2885950  
P.O. Box 596366 
Fort Gratiot, Michigan 48059-6366 United States
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all material is copyright © The Bear Care Group 2020