32. Do bears have a dominance hierarchy?
The eleven bears we have here are separated into three groups, and indeed there is a bear "leader" in each group. Jimbo in his, Jenny in hers, and Randy in his. This is largely because they are the biggest bears in their group, and they are well aware of that. All the other bears are pretty equal. They all have their moments of angst toward each other, but all in all each one knows not to overdo it and cause problems within their family. Jenny and Amy are very close. Sonya likes to keep to herself and Jenny/Amy like to boss her around.
33. Would the bears be fine with ANYONE going in, or just Jim and Susan?
The answer to this is simple. Susan and Jim have been with these bears every day of their lives. They do not allow anyone else to go in with the bears, because the two of them have a very special relationship with the bears that noone else would have. Their relationship is special not only because of the time spent together, but also because of the way they treat the bears.
34. Isn't handling wild animals bad for them? Shouldn't they all be left as wild as they can be, even if they have to stay in captivity?
Any animals that are to be released, we do not routinely handle (except as necessary for bottle feeding, cleaning and geneal care). The goal is to release all the animals, but in cases where they must spend their life in captivity we absolutely do forge a bond and a relationship with them. Most zoos or other wildlife centers can not do so because of the staff turnover. It takes a great deal of time for an animal like a bear to be accepting and trusting of you. But because our center is so small (just Susn and Jim mainly) we feel it is absolutely in the animal's best interest to trust us. In this way if we have to move them from enclosure to enclosure, or if we have to handle them for medical treatment, injuries or examinations, we never have to rabies pole them, terrify them, or chase them with prongs to try to subdue, capture, or tranquilizer them. Bears also do NOT do well with tranquilizers. They often do NOT recover. So we mitigate the risk to them as best we can and having a relationship with them helps them to have a better life in the long run!
35. Do you ever get afraid that they will attack you?
We get this question a great deal and the answer is that ANY animal COULD hurt you. Your dog could bite you, your bird could peck you, your cat could scratch you. But Jim and Susan have built a lifetime of a relationship with these animals. And yes they could get hurt, but the bears recognize the differences in their strength and they are very gentle when intercting with Susan and Jim as compared with when they play with eah other. We won't say it is totally impossible for them to ever get hurt, but the amount of time they spend together and the amount of years expreience they have in reading bears and respecting their space, and their moods, greatly lessens this concern. If at any time one did harm someone, rest assured there would be no ramifications to the animal. We would never put a bear down, but we would likely not continue to interact with that one. We understnad the risks involved and we accept them in order to help these special animals.
36. Why does the pond sometimes appear muddy and brown, or green and murky?
The pond is a natural pond and hence it looks just like a pond you would come across in the woods. Certain times of the year it is very clear, other times it is muddy and brown, other times it is green or murky. This is the life of a natural pond. We don't dump chemicals into it, or treat it in any way because that would NOT be healthy for the bears. There is nothing wrong with discolored water, it is completely normal for it to be that way and better for the animals. It sometimes also creates minerals on the rocks that you will see the bears licking off in videos.
37. If I do a tour what can I expect?
We don’t have a set “thing” we do on the tours. It’s very laid back. Most people spend about 2 hours here. It will just be your group, me, Susan and Jim. You can talk to them and ask any questions you want, at least one of them will go in with the bears and other animals and interact with them. We will give you a walking tour of the facility and spend as much time as you like in each place. The DEC and our insurance doesn’t allow us to allow you IN with the animals, so we could not ever allow that…but generally, it is all played by ear and so far no one that has come has ever left feeling let down (as far as we know!). Most people that have visited have gone on to become very loyal supporters. We can do the tour amy time of year, but it is best in the summer because by fall we have released all the animals, and only the resident bears will still be here. In the summer there are many different animals here to see and it might be more interesting for you.
38. I see you somtimes at local fairs and events with the bears in a big rig. Can you tell us why you do this?
We do a few of these a year to raise funds, raise awareness, and spread as much information about the plight of wild animals as we can. We also try to teach people what special animals bears are by showing their really special and incredible personalities. I think YOU guys, our followers have all been amazed at how incredible these animals are. Everyone should understand that. It’s the only way we can help them! Our hope is that people will be less afraid of them and more willing to deal humanely with them wherever they live.
Our rig was built SPECIFICALLY for the bears. It is climate controlled (the bears like it cold so it is kept in the 50’s for them, which isn’t so pleasant for Jim and Susan who spend much of the day with them). Jim and Susan also sleep right there with them, with their camper parked two feet from the bear’s enclosure.
There are shower nozzles on the ceiling so that they can still have their baths and showers every day, which bears like. They are put on for them each morning and they can opt to be in it, or out of it. The rig is extremely large and has two extra large pop out areas to give the bears plenty of space. We only take a max of three bears when we do these tours and if they don’t WANT to go, they don’t. Jim backs the rig up to their enclosure and they can choose to go in or not. Sonya used to go but lately she has chosen to not go, so she is never forced to. Same for Frankie. They can opt in or out...but sometimes TOO many go in and Jim and Susan have to encourage some OUT. The bears LOVE it. They get undivided attention from Jim and Susan all day which they really like and they have lots of fun things to do. Jim hides peanuts or marshmallows or other treats in the tire or around the enclosure for them to hunt out, and they have another big swing at the far end. They also have toys made of PVC pipe that they spin to get the treats out. During the walk through on the other side of the glass you also see interesting bear artifacts (claws, skulls, bear information) and there is a video that talks all about bears, wildlife and our part in it.
The outside sounds are very muffled, and Susan usually has the radio playing, so if you are trying to talk to Susan or Jim through the glass, they aren’t being rude - they just really can’t hear you. Some people have wondered if being away from home ever bothers the bears. I will tell you unequivocally that if ANY bear shows signs of stress or unhappiness, that’s it...home we go. At no time will we ever allow the bears to be uncomfortable or upset in any way.