The WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center is a one-of-a-kind facility that aims to provide information and understanding for bear conservation around the world.
Research at the Bear Center covers a range of disciplines, including nutrition, physiology, ecology, behavior, reproduction, and learning and memory. We investigate questions such as:
- What is the ideal diet for a bear?
- How do bears know when to hibernate?
- What determines cub production and growth?
- What enrichment activities are best for captive bears?
Graduate students involved with the Bear Center also conduct research with wild bears—investigating questions such as:
- How have diets of bears in Yellowstone and other wilderness areas changed over the years?
- How has the productivity of bear populations changed as food resources are altered?
- How do human activities, including tourism, affect bear populations?
The synergy of wild and captive research strengthens overall understanding of bear biology and ecology, and it distinguishes the program as a unique opportunity to understand and improve conservation and management.
In addition to better understanding bears, physiological studies of bears continue to help us understand human pathologies. For example, how the maintenance of heart function, bone strength, and muscle mass of bears during hibernation can be extended to humans with failing hearts or weakened muscles whether due to disease or spinal cord damage.