Feeding time at the Zoo can be complex, not to mention feeding seven polar bears at the same time!
Here at the polar bear habitat in Journey to Churchill, the animal care team starts the day by calling each bear to its own area for feeding. The team changes the location and time of the morning feeds regularly to keep things unpredictable for the bears.
Currently, our bears each eat between about one and eleven kilograms of food per day! Each bear has a specific meal plan and the amount of food they receive changes throughout the seasons.
Let us introduce you to Kaska (pictured above), one of our female polar bears living in the Journey to Churchill habitat. Kaska came to our Zoo in 2013 after she was orphaned at just a year old. At that age, she would not have been able to survive in the wild on her own.
Kaksa’s diet currently consists of three kilograms of meat, three kilograms of fish, and one kilogram of a special polar bear chow.
At feedings, our team can also work on positive reinforcement training. Kaska has learned to stand on her hind legs with her front paws up high to the mesh wall. This is one of many behaviours that allow the team to observe her entire body. Once she presents the behaviour, she is rewarded with food. If there comes a time when she needs veterinary care, this would allow our team to access her entire body in a non-invasive manner.
Positive Reinforcement Training
The Sea Ice Passage in Journey to Churchill
Willow, one of the female polar bears
A typical day in the life of Kaska the polar bear could also include an afternoon “pool party” where the bears enjoy some treats such as lettuce and sweet potatoes while swimming.
The bears here do not have another big feed in the afternoon or evening, but they may enjoy snacks like fruits and vegetables throughout the day. By sticking to the schedule of one big morning feed, the bears are not focused on food during the day which helps avoid potential conflict and gives us the opportunity to observe the group dynamics without the added layer of food anticipation.
Kaska also enjoys playing with her toys, or enrichment items, taking naps and spending time playing with the other bears, especially Willow, our other female bear in Journey to Churchill.
The bears love spending time in the water
Baffin, one of the male polar bears
All the bears here receive personalized care and meal plans from our amazing team of animal care professionals and veterinaries. Each bear is weighed regularly and observed daily to make sure they are getting all the food and care they need to stay happy and healthy.
The Journey to Churchill exhibit is the most comprehensive zoological exhibit of its kind in the world. The exhibit's expansive enclosures, pools, rugged landscapes, and shaded dens provide our polar bears with a stimulating environment inspired by their natural habitat and plenty of space for exercise, exploration, and socialization. The Zoo is also home to the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, an education, research, and transition facility that is the first home for polar bears before they are transitioned into Journey to Churchill.
Click here to watch the 'What I Eat in a Day' reel.
Learn more about the bears in our care here.