PULLMAN, Wash. – A two-year-old grizzly bear was mauled to death by two older bears in an atypical altercation this afternoon at the Washington State University Bear Center.
The attack occurred at approximately 3:30 p.m. in the 2.2 acre fenced area at the center. All three bears were there along with two other resident bears. It is the first time that these bears have shown any outwardly violent aggression.
“This really is a tragedy,” said Dr. Charles Robbins, director of the center. “We don’t put bears together unless they show months, even years, of good behavior with each other.” Robbins says that all of the bears had been out together for the past two weeks without incident. “In fact, they had been exhibiting friendly and even playful behavior.”
The WSU facility works to give the bears as much time in the open as possible, Robbins said. “We want to get bears out of their smaller pens into the big yard to develop normal foraging and social interactions, which we hope includes play.
All of these bears have been raised in side-by-side pens for at least two years.
“It’s unfortunate, but this does happen,” said Mike Madel, a grizzly expert from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Service who was visiting WSU this week.“We sometimes see it happen in the wild where the older adults will suddenly attack the younger sub-adult bears.”
“We have raised these bears from birth, and this is the first time they have exhibited any kind of aggression,” said Dr. Lynne Nelson, the WSU veterinarian who oversees medical care of the bears. “But they are still grizzly bears.”
The WSU Bear Center is the only facility in the world to house adult grizzlies for research. Scientists from all around the globe have come to WSU for grizzly studies.
The Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International has recognized WSU and the center for meeting the highest possible animal care standards.