Berkley the Bear, Discovery Wildlife Park’s new addition from 2017, is celebrating her first birthday.
The young Kodiak came to Innisfail in April of last year and is enjoying all the perks of being a child in Alberta.
“When she came in April of last year, she weighed 7.6 lbs. She now weighs 151 lbs,” Head Zookeeper and Animal Trainer Serena Bos said. “She has turned out exactly as we would have hoped in the last year. Her body weight is where it should be, mentally she is doing amazing and she has been learning different behaviours.”
A Kodiak is a subspecies of brown bears which are typically found hunting salmon on the Alaskan coast and grow to be the largest land carnivores in the world. Berkley, being a female, will grow anywhere from 750 lbs. to over 1100 lbs.
Currently she is being fed a mixture of prepared milk, as well as meat, berries, vegetables and grass.
“As a carnivore, she does need that protein. She does eat fruits and vegetables at times and 80 per cent of a bear’s diet can be grass, which a lot of people are not aware of,” Bos said.
As she grows, she will be slowly weened off milk towards other sources of protein.
Along with her growth in size, Berkley has also developed a “soft-souled” personality, according to Bos.
“Berkley’s personality is very sweet, but like all of us people, she will go through different stages and spells — she will have a little rebellious stage just like teenagers do,” she said.
She added that bears in the wild can often be aggressive and their space needs to be respected.
“Their nose is the strongest of all their senses and they can actually smell 20 miles upwind, so you will never fool a bear’s nose,” she said.
Berkley will be moved on from her current location in the next few months to accomodate her growth.
“Berkely is in right now what I like to call a nursery or play enclosure,” Bos said. “She will be moving into one of the big bear enclosures by May 1st or sooner depending on what she wants. Right now she likes being in a bit of a smaller area which is very comforting for her.”
In her nursery, Berkley has already started picking up the habits of adult bears.
“She has a huge den she is actually digging. A lot of people ask about the big lump on their shoulders and that is actually muscle formed from digging,” Bos said.
The tendency to build a den comes from the need to hibernate, which bears in the wild do and what all the other bears at Discovery Wildlife Park do as well.
“Bears in the wild hibernate so they don’t starve to death,” Bos said. “Some facilities do keep their bears up, it is as simple as keep feeding them.
“I am a huge advocate for allowing bears to hibernate because bears have the ability to heal through hibernation.”
She added Berkley is currently not hibernating because she is still very young, learning and “excited for life”.
Central Albertans will have the opportunity to see Berkley again on May 1st when Discovery Wildlife Park opens again for 2018.