Food for thought

I noted a recent announcement from Grandfather Mountain that as of next week, they will be closing the “Bear Hut” (where visitors have been able to purchase food to feed the bears in the Mountain’s black bear habitat). Among other reasons cited for no longer allowing the public to feed the bears, staff say that the closure should improve the bears’ health (as they will receive a more consistent diet) as well as their temperament (as they will no longer have to compete with each other for food).

This reminded me of Morton photos I’ve seen from a time when ideas about the diets of bears in captivity were perhaps less enlightened.

It’s a little tough to make out, but in the photo above, the famous Mildred is enjoying a refreshing Orange Crush soda. (I cropped the original to make it easier to see).

Granted, this was a special occasion, but I suspect bears in the wild don’t have much opportunity to feast on birthday cake (except for perhaps the occasional trash-can raid):

And finally, here’s Mildred enjoying a more nutritious snack (again, cropped for full effect):

Here’s to the new plan for happier, healthier and more “natural” bears at Grandfather.

3 thoughts on “Food for thought

  1. I think that they are doing the right thing by restricting people from feeding the bears ( as in that photo with the beer eating the cake ) and leaving it completing to the staff to do the job.We love these animals and want to see them healthy .

  2. Grandfather Mountain’s bears were pampered, take my word for it.( But I do approve of the new arrangements about feeding them.) Their basic diet, as I recall, was Purina dog chow, green vegetables like cabbage, and fruit like apples, and no one could say that the the peanuts the public tossed to them did not at least have nutritional value. No one fed them candy. Hugh used cookies to keep their attention when he was setting up a picture. Fig Newtons were Mildred’s favorite,by far. The birthday cake was for Mildred’s twenty-first birthday, I think. And she did love watermellon. Hugh built the bears a whole row of motel-like dens when he built the habitat, but the first winter (the only one I remember talking about with Hugh) the male found his own den under a rock and Mildred, Minnie, and Maxie all crowded into a single “motel room”. Our bears set all time records for longevity, but the effort now is to meet all official standards for keeping any animals in captivity, which means not letting the public feed them. Any animal that ever dies in our habitats is autopsied, all are under the care of veterinarians. and we are always looking for ways to improve the captive animals’ health and welfare.

  3. …Oh, yes, and we do not accept animals that good-hearted people want us to take off their hands, like “Bambi” fauns, or orphaned cubs. Every animal is held under proper documentation.

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