Saskatoon zoo opening research facility to study orphaned grizzly bears

Bears Mistaya and Koda will help shed light on those in the wild

By Alex Soloducha, CBC News Posted: Apr 25, 2017 4:12 PM CT

The Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo is beginning a new partnership with the Foothills Research Institute to start a grizzly bear research program in the city.

The five-year agreement between the two organizations will allow Foothills scientists to use Saskatoon zoo facilities to take part in conservation research on a variety of animals of different species currently housed there, starting with two orphaned grizzly bears.

The Saskatoon Zoo acquired two young grizzly bears in 2006. Mistaya and Koda were both orphaned in Alberta, paired at the Calgary Zoo and later transferred to their permanent home in Saskatoon.

Manager of the Saskatoon zoo, Tim Sinclair-Smith, said the organization is working to make research and conservation a priority.

“We shouldn’t have them here at all if we’re just going to display them,” he said.

Foothills researchers have been working on long-term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta since 1999.

Their primary objective is to understand how the health of individual grizzly bears is influenced by human activities and changing environmental conditions. The second goal is to examine how that health affects the growth, stability and resilience of grizzly bear populations.

This year, during the bears’ hibernation, management at the zoo was working on making a connection with Foothills.

The City of Saskatoon will pool in-kind resources to create a Wildlife Health Centre, consisting of a laboratory for Foothills researchers. No changes will be done to the structure of the facilities, which are being outfitted with necessary lab equipment.

“For them to build a facility … you’re talking millions and millions of dollars,” Sinclair-Smith said. “This was a great opportunity for them to be able to utilize the data they can gather from these guys and use them for a baseline for all the research that they’re doing with the bears in the wild.”

The Foothills scientists will test samples of hair, feathers and scales picked up through non-invasive sample gathering.

Their research findings will often be communicated directly with zoo visitors.

With files from Charles Hamilton

9 thoughts on “Saskatoon zoo opening research facility to study orphaned grizzly bears

  1. I’m glad they’re paying attention and hope some “real” science will come of it. But grizzly conservation would do much better, obviously, with no hunting, including shooting unsuspecting bears in their sleep.

  2. “Their primary objective is to understand how the health of individual grizzly bears is influenced by human activities and changing environmental conditions. ” They need a 5 year program to find out! After witnessing what happens to wildlife especially large predators after woods are turned into shopping malls, do we still need to study what happens to them as the result of human activities? You must be joking.

    • LOL, that was my first thought too. It just is a way to justify their captivity and getting funding!!!!! I should think there would be enough data already about how negatively captivity affects bears and other animals. Orphaned? Translation: Mother was shot by hunter or F&W warden. Not good for cubs. Something tells me they ought to put more effort into studying that part of the process. I don’t see how it relates to bears in the wild at all. The baseline is wild. As PT Barnum says…..

      I hate to look at that photo of the big bruiser wildlife agent with the shotgun who was going after a bear a mountain biker rode into.

    • It’s a good excuse to get the money for “research” which will probably just happen to support whatever they want to do anyway.

  3. Either these people are genuinely concerned but they don’t know what else they can do to make a difference or they have a different motivation altogether.
    To me this sounds almost like when hunters claim they support conservation when in fact they support conservation so they don’t run out of animals to kill, or as they put it to ‘harvest’. Complete bullshit!
    I happened on one of their websites, through ‘natural wildlife federation’! All you see is tranquil landscapes and animals peacefully going about their daily routine. Then in this peaceful surrounding you see the silhouette of a guy with a gun. Only a sadistic a** hole will refer to the act of killing as conservation!
    Let’s imagine someone from a different planet comes to earth and decides he loves the nature and the animals. He comes across one of these hunting sites and he asks ‘what is that human carrying?’ Can you imagine the look on that aliens face when we explain that hunters love animals so they kill them! That hunters find spirituality in the moment they put a bullet or something worse in an animal and they see the look of death on the animal’s face!

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