Training adult grizzly bears to give blood turned out to be much easier than Joy Erlenbach imagined.
The Washington State University graduate student, along with Bear Center manager Brandon Hutzenbiler, trained the WSU Grizzly Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center’s two adult males to give blood in less than a month.
“It was surprisingly easy,” Erlenbach said. “These bears have never been touched before by people, and they’ve been at the Center for over a decade. But they just got it right away. It was awesome.”
John and Frank, the two adult male bears, came to WSU from Yellowstone, so they’re not as comfortable around people as the bears that were bottle-raised at the center.
The center has 11 bears total, and the seven bottle-raised bears have long been trained for blood draws. But until now, the four bears from the wild had to be anesthetized for their regular blood work.
“Having them trained is so much less stressful on them,” Erlenbach said. “And these regular blood checks are important for us to monitor their health and make sure they’re getting the best care possible.”