The Shape of Enrichment

A source of ideas for animal enrichment

Mapping How Grizzly Bears Use Their Enclosure

By Beth Cinadr, Educational Animal Assistant, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Ohio, USA

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is AZA accredited and very involved in enrichment programs. Enrichment is a dynamic process for enhancing animal environments within the context of the animals’ behavioral biology and natural history (Association of Zoos & Aquariums, 2012). Environmental enrichment can be defined as an animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive care by identifying and providing environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being (Shepherdson, 1998). Our zoo categorizes enrichment into seven types: foraging, self-maintenance, sensual, structural and locomotion, diet, intelligence, and environmental (Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 2006).

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Grizzly Bears and Enrichment

The goal of our study was to determine, using a mapping technique, how the grizzlies at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo interact with all areas of their enclosure. Any enrichment program hopes to get a positive response from the animals while promoting investigation and typical behaviors (Young, 2003). The key behaviors that we seek to encourage in the bears are: rubbing, olfactory, nesting, and foraging. The four grizzlies in this study—two brothers, Cooper and Cody, and a brother and sister, Jackson and Cheyenne, all about two years old (the males are neutered)—have an enrichment plan in place to help achieve these behavior goals. By conducting this mapping study, we wanted to see if the bears were displaying these behaviors within all locations, and with the enrichment items provided, from which we could determine that the enclosure is creating a stimulating atmosphere for these bears to live in.

Mapping to Understand Enclosure Use

Creating a map to gather behavioral data offers organization and an overview of the subject, a projection of reality. Maps can bring to light complex environmental needs, knowledge, and uses, and mapping has the power to name, define, locate, and situate (Rochleau, 2009). Chambers discusses mobility mapping, which allows one to see who goes where and how often. Mobility mapping can come in handy especially when concerning the welfare of animals. Maps promote living in an age where there is a sense, and perhaps a reality, of accelerating change (Chambers, 2006). Mapping offers a positive movement for change when needed.


Using an overhead photograph of the enclosure from Google Maps, we created a map of the grizzly bears’ enclosure by dividing the area into eight sections, based on size and enclosure features (see Figure 1).
The enclosure features were also labeled on the map to further illustrate what the grizzlies’ can interact with. A large downed tree trunk was the middle point to separate top and bottom rows. It is about 20 B - Figure 1feet long and is found in zones 3 and 5. The first seven zones are land and the eighth includes a waterfall and pool.

The study recorded each bear’s location in the exhibit and behavior at 5-minute intervals over the course of 30 minutes. These observation sets were done for a total of four days. These location points were used to calculate which exhibit sections the bears spend most of their time in.

Figure 1. Zones of the Grizzly Bear Habitat at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Overhead view.


Each of the data points were totaled and calculated to create percentages of time spent in each zone. This gave a great overall picture of how the grizzlies were exploring their habitat (Figure 2). The grizzlies spent the most time in Zone 2. This zone was where they were found sleeping as well, so this might account for that result. The bears spent a greater amount of time in the front row of zones, closest to the visitors (Zones 2, 4, 6). Perhaps due to the oncoming colder weather, the bears did not come into contact with the water features except for a quick drink. These bears were very active, not only with features of the enclosure but each other as well. The grizzly bears frequently interacted with enrichment items in their enclosure.

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Figure 2. Pie chart displaying zone totals for the four grizzly bears over the observational time period.


The aim of this study was to determine how the four grizzly bears at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo interact with their enclosure, enrichment items, and each other. It was found that the four grizzly bears are active in all locations and with many items that are in the enclosure. The location map will also help the caretakers track the bears going forward. If location percentages change, there might be a reason that the keepers can address. Keepers can keep the enclosure interactive by placing new
enrichment items in areas where the bears could be spending more time. Since this study showed that the bears spend time pretty equally in all areas of the enclosure, it lets the keepers know they have thoroughly enriched this enclosure in a way that is stimulating to them.B - bears with enrichment



















Grizzly bears interacting with various items. From top left, clockwise: plastic ball (6), rubber tire (4), Herring fish (6), piece of tree bark (2). Photos by Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Zoo visitors also seemed to benefit from the bear enrichment. During observations, when enrichment items were visible in the enclosure, the visitors would voice that the bears are “playing” or “having a good time.” These observations support that enrichment programs are beneficial to both animals and visitors. Quality enrichment programs provide the animals with interactive/stimulating experiences while educating and entertaining zoo visitors.

Creating maps such as the ones used in this study can be helpful in documenting animal activity and changes in behavior according to location in the exhibit. There was a similar study done on gray wolf behavior in small and large enclosures. The study tested to see whether space restrictions alter a wolf’s behavior. The researchers found there was no difference in activity levels based on size of enclosures (Kreeger et. al, 1998). Maps can also aid in helping visitors learn about where the animals can be seen in their enclosures.


As a keeper, the goal is to create an interactive and natural enclosure for the animals. Enclosures should optimize the area for maximum usage and interaction. Keeping detailed maps such as this will help keepers assess their animal’s welfare and their use of enrichment to improve the animals’ behaviors on and off exhibit.


Association of Zoos & Aquariums. (2012). Accreditation Standards and Related Policies; Silver Springs.
Chambers, R. (2006). Participatory mapping and geographic information systems: Whose map? Who is empowered and who dis-empowered? Who gains and who loses? The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries, 25, 1-11.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. (2006). Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Animal Environmental Enrichment Policy; Cleveland.
Kreeger, T. J., Pereira, D. L., Callahan, M. and Beckel, M. (1996), Activity patterns of gray wolves housed in small vs. large enclosures. Zoo Biol., 15: 395–401.
Rocheleau, D. (2005). Maps as power tools: Locating communities in space or situating people and ecologies in place? From Brosius, J.P., Tsing, A.L. and Zerner, C. (eds.), Communities and Conservation. New York, NY: Altamira Press. Chapter 13, pp. 327-362.
Shepherdson, D.J., Mellen, J.D., Hutchins, M. (1998). Second Nature: Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals; Smithsonian Institution Press, London.
Young, R.J. (2003). Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals; Blackwell Science Ltd., O.


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