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Individual study: Management implications for releasing orphaned, captive-reared bears back to the wild

Published source details

Beecham J.J., De G.H.M., Karamanlidis A.A., Beausoleil R.A., Burguess K., Jeong D., Binks M., Bereczky L., Ashraf N.V.K., Skripova K., Rhodin L., Auger J. & Lee B. (2015) Management implications for releasing orphaned, captive-reared bears back to the wild. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 79, 1327-1336


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Hand-rear orphaned or abandoned young in captivity Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated study in 1991–2012 of 12 programs in the USA, Canada, Romania, Greece, South Korea and India (Beecham et al. 2015) found that following release, approximately half of orphaned and captive-reared American black bears Ursus americanus, Asiatic black bears Ursus thibetanus and brown bears Ursus arctos survived over one year. Of 141 known mortalities, 54% occurred during the first year after release when bears were 1 to 2‐years old and at least two bears lived for more than 10 years in the wild. Average annual survival rates for released captive-reared bears were 73% for American black bear, 75% for brown bear and 87% for Asiatic black bear. A minority of all American (6.1%) and Asiatic black bears (9.7%) released demonstrated persistent problem behaviours and required removal, but none were reported for brown bears. Captive-reared females from all species reproduced in the wild. Orphaned American black bears were released in the USA and Canada (424 individuals, 7 programs), Asian black bears released in India and South Korea (62 individuals, 2 programs) and brown bears were released in Romania, Canada and Greece (64 individuals, 3 programs). Cubs were <1 year old when taken into captivity and were kept for 2–14 months. All bears were released (aged 11-23 months) in areas with suitable habitat. Bears were ear‐tagged and/or equipped with telemetry collars. Collared bears were monitored until the collar dropped or malfunctioned. Overall, 30% of bears were not observed after release and so are not included in survival estimates.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)