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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

North American Black bear

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

Board of Directors

For three decades Jay has worked with game farms, sanctuaries, and accredited zoos, with species ranging from ant colonies to giant pandas, becoming internationally renowned for his animal behavior and welfare expertise. A founding board member and President of the Bear Care Group, he earned his Masters degree in Zoo and Aquarium Leadership, has authored numerous publications, and is co-editor for AAZK’s “Training Tales” in the Animal Keeper’s Forum. Jay is an adjunct professor, developing a course on animal welfare and human impact. An active animal welfare advocate, Jay is recognized as an expert witness in several US Federal court circuits, and aids numerous organizations globally in improving the lives of all species of animals.

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Jason Pratte


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Angela Gibson

Social Media and Communications

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. 

 Heather is a veterinarian and the academic lead for the veterinary programme at the University of Central Lancashire. She has worked internationally on veterinary education and animal welfare projects for 15 years and was previously responsible for developing and teaching veterinary undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Edinburgh in animal welfare, behaviour and veterinary ethics.  Additionally, she works with many charities, veterinary and political organisations to develop veterinary educational initiatives around the world, with a focus on improving the welfare of captive and free-ranging wildlife, and free-roaming dogs.


Dr. Heather Bacon
 OBE, BSc (Hons), BVSc, CertZooMed, MRCVS


Heather also delivers UK zookeeper training courses in animal health, behaviour and welfare, and is a DEFRA appointed zoo inspector. Previously, she worked as the Veterinary Director at the Animals Asia Foundation, an NGO working to end the trade in bear bile across Asia. Heather graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, and from the University of Liverpool with a degree in Conservation medicine.


Agnieszka Sergiel

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Agnieszka is an Assistant Professor at the

Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish

Academy of Sciences. Over the years her research has focused on physiological and

behavioral effects of stress on bears, as well as bear ecology. She has been involved in

captive bear welfare projects across Europe aimed at ending illegal ownership and

relocating bears to improve their welfare. Agnieszka is a member of the International

Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) and the IUCN SSC Bear Specialist Group.

Laurie started her career as an intern at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit sanctuary in Northwest Arkansas, working her way up becoming the Assistant Curator in 2011.  She is involved in everything from habitat design and construction to being the manager and buyer for admissions and the gift shop. Her passion includes a focus on the husbandry and welfare needs of captive big cats and bears that have been rescued from commercial exploitation and the exotic pet trade.


Laurie Vanderwal

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Gary has served the zoo community for more than 25 years, including a variety of roles and taxa at Oklahoma City Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, and Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In his current role, he oversees the husbandry, health, conservation and research of the Milwaukee County Zoo’s animal populations.  He has a passion for the rescue of orphaned polar bear cubs and troublesome brown bears.  He currently serves on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Bear Taxon Advisory Group and the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan® programs.


Gary Lunsford

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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.


Gail Hedberg

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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.


Angelika Langen

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Jake is a behavioural ecologist specialising in the interface between animal welfare science and
conservation biology with a particular interest in double jeopardy species; those species at risk of
extirpation in the wild and welfare compromises in captivity. He has worked with bears for two
decades and has extensive executive leadership experience running some of the biggest wildlife
facilities in Europe and North America. Jake regularly advises governments and NGO’s around
the world on species conservation and animal welfare policy and management.


Dr. Jake Veasey


 Lucy has been a zoo keeper for over 18 years

and is the head keeper at
Northumberland zoo in the North of England. Previous to this Lucy held
the position of Assistant team manager of carnivores at Chester zoo, UK.
She has worked with Andean bears and Malayan sun bears with a primary
focus on bear husbandry and welfare, and the successful breeding
programs for both species. She also runs the Bear husbandry workshop UK
Facebook page and hosted the workshop at Chester zoo in 2018.


Lucy Edwards


Douglas is a global zoological consultant whose expertise includes collection planning, exhibit design and conservation project development. He has spent over four decades working in zoos around the world and oversaw the first polar bear cub birth in the UK in 25 years after designing an award-winning polar bear enclosure. Douglas is an associate lecturer at University of Glasgow, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and Sparsholt College, Hampshire, lecturing on animal welfare and ethics. He is also vice-chair of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).


Douglas Richardson


Kristina has practiced animal care and conservation as a bear biologist and wildlife rehabilitator in Kosovo, Guam, and the United States. She received her MS in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University. Kristina is the Director of Development for The Climate Initiative, Vice President of Wild in Vermont, Inc., and an animal care volunteer at the Humane Society of Chittenden County.


Kristina Madarang Stahl


Fakhar is the CEO of the Center for Bioresource Research, a multidisciplinary institute focused on
research and conservation of Pakistan’s bioresources. He has been involved in conservation and management of wild bears since 1994, working to end poaching of bears for cruel events such as baiting and dancing. He has successfully conveyed an Islamic narrative for conservation and cruelty to animals nationwide, resulting in a significant decrease in bear baiting events. Fakhar started the Kund Bear Sanctuary in 1997 and the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Balkasar in 2008 to rehabilitate and house rescued bears.


Dr. Fakhar-i-Abbas

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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 worked as an animal caregiver for more than two decades, specializing in zoo husbandry and welfare for sloth bears. With a PhD in Psychology focused on animal behavior and cognition, she conducts behavioral research with bears in an effort to improve their management in zoos. Mindy is also the Smithsonian National Zoological Park’s Institutional Representative to the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group and Studbook Keeper for the AZA sun bear population. 


Vice President and Treasurer

Dr. Mindy Babitz

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Bear Care Group  
501(c) 3 -  tax identification number is 26-2885950  

PO Box 7174

Alexandria, VA  United States 22307

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all material is copyright © The Bear Care Group 2020
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