Wildlife Conservation: OC Zoo Educates Visitors On Bear Awareness Day
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Published by Connor Wesson on April 13, 2022
California is home to an estimated 30,000-40,000 black bears spanning as south as the San Bernardino Mountains all the way up to the State's northern coastline. The OC Zoo celebrated Bear Awareness Day on April 9th to educate visitors on black bear habitat, diet, and the threats they face.
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Education and Conservation At The OC Zoo
The modern version of the OC Zoo officially opened up in 1985, however that is not where this zoo's origins begin. It all started in 1905 when red foxes were introduced and bred in the Irvine Park Region, followed by a pair of mule deer, and a collection of animals began taking shape. Constantly expanding, there was once an alligator exhibit that was the chief attraction until exotic bird enclosures were built in 1935.
Today, the zoo has evolved into a remarkable wildlife rehabilitation center and lifelong home for the animals that cannot be reintroduced into the wild. This is the case for the two resident black bears at OC Zoo, Eleanor and YoYo.
Eleanor was rescued in her youth on the side of a highway after being hit by a car. She suffered broken bones and severe head trauma. This event lead her to the OC Zoo for her recovery and so that she may peacefully life out the rest of her life in captivity.
"About 90% of our animals come to us from being orphaned or injured in the wild." - Susan Miles, Education Animal Keeper
Bear Awareness Day, the Zoo's annual celebration to educate visitors on bear species brought awareness and fun together with informational scavenger hunts. Volunteers stationed around the Zoo introduced facts about bears and their native habitats, including some other Californian wildlife like raccoons, skunks, and beavers.
Whilst educating the public into the lives of California's elusive black bears, the zoo also shared a message of hope for the future of this species. California's black bear faces a number of threats, including human-wildlife conflict, wildfires, and hunting.
California's Bears Are In Trouble
Less than a century after the California Grizzly was hunted to extinction, the California black bear is in trouble, experts say. California officials calculate the state's annual black bear population estimates using age-at-harvest models, which are outdated and inaccurate.
In 2020, there were an estimated 15,934 bears living in California, only half of the "conservatively estimated" 30,000-40,000 bears listed on the California Fish and Wildlife Website.
In the past decade, there is no question that an influx of climate related disasters have struck California, such as the record breaking wildfire season in 2021. California's bears have been increasingly impacted by habitat destruction, drought, and food scarcity as these fires continue to burn across the state.
While the frequency of these events increases, no changes have been made to CA bear hunting laws since 2013 when the use of bloodhounds in hunts was declared illegal. These bears are already in a vulnerable state without being targeted for harvest by humans, and calls from around the state are being heard to protect them.
Conservationists argue that due to outdated population tracking methods, increased wildfires across the state, and the public's disapproval of bear hunting, California's black bears deserve further protections.