Boo the Bear was in action last week, going on a treasure hunt that was organized by staff members at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge.
To set up the treasure hunt, staff at the refuge temporarily closed Boo into a small section of the facility called the isolation corner.
While Boo was kept in that area, which is guarded by an electric fence, the staff went around the refuge and hid food high and low for the grizzly bear to find. The process included nestling food in tree branches and beneath dirt and rocks. In addition to the food that was hidden, peanut butter and jam were spread on tree leaves and in holes in the ground.
“Getting him to stand on his hind legs can help to improve and maintain hip mobility, while encouraging him to dig can help to maintain claw length and muscles in his front legs,” the refuge wrote in a social media post.
The process of scavenging that the treasure hunts require helps Boo develop his brain and body and gives him incentives to use his cognitive skills and be more active and engaged in his environment.
“Treasure hunts are one of the many forms of enrichment that we will utilize at the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge to increase discovery and investigatory behaviours,” the refuge wrote.
On this particular treasure hunt, Boo created a workaround to reach grapes that were hidden at the top of a small tree. Instead of standing on his hind legs to reach the fruits (which was the goal of the placement), Boo pulled the thin tree towards himself and enjoyed the grapes from a seated position.
Although Boo sidestepped one particular exercise, he still demonstrated how resourceful he is and got plenty of enrichment while looking for other snacks.
In addition to being a good way for Boo to get exercise and engage with his space, the treasure hunts also give the staff at the refuge a staged opportunity to observe the grizzly in more natural settings.
Since he arrived at the refuge in 2002 after the passing of his mother, Boo has been the subject of extensive grizzly bear research.
Boo has given humans the rare opportunity to learn about grizzly bears in-depth and his life has created invaluable knowledge that can be used to protect his species.