OC Zoo holds its annual Bear Awareness Day

Eleanor the bear is getting treats while trainer checks to make sure she is strong healthy and safe. (Betsy Johnson/Photo Editor)

Eleanor the bear is getting treats while trainer checks to make sure she is strong healthy and safe. (Betsy Johnson/Photo Editor)

When California was still a Mexican territory, some American settlers wanted their independence. After banding together, they decided they needed a symbol to represent bravery and freedom, so they chose the grizzly bear.

The flag was first flown in 1846 and became a permanent state seal that year. The bear is a celebrated name across California and used for mascots for multiple schools. The grizzly became the state animal in 1953. Grizzlies were poisoned, shot at and trapped across the Golden State making it so only few were rarely seen, their population nearly extinct.

Over the past 25 years programs like the Endangered Species Act, with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and help from scientists, they have been able to legally fulfill their duty and gained the opportunity to create a sustainable habitat across the west. Scientists are now able to provide enough space for the bear population, while trying to coexist with humans.

The Orange County Zoo held its second annual “Bear Awareness Day” on Saturday, May 7, showcasing its two brown bears, Eleanor and Yo-Yo.

Only having this event only once before, it has started to become successful and have hope to continue year after year, said Kelly Anderson, a spokesperson and trainer at the zoo.

Anderson spends her day training with the bears and with other animals at the zoo, while educating people about wild animals that surround the places people live.

“Bears live here in California, so we try to educate people about bear population, safe camping facts and about black bears,” Anderson said.

Two-year-old Eleanor was out roaming the cage. Kelly was able to come in between the fence and bear to feed, interact, test and train the bear while people observed and while some of the zoo’s other trainers shared how bears live in and out of captivity.

Yo-Yo, 16, the oldest bear, celebrated his birthday that day, and in celebration the zoo had a cardboard cake with notes from people saying Happy Birthday. They also filled the cake with treats like fish and scents that attract bears. Yo-Yo loved to tear into surprises and eat all his treats, the zookeepers said.

The zoo also had a learning center where experts taught about keeping campsites clean and how to properly store food. They also showed the proper way to face a bear if faced with one up close and personal.

There was also a game where people could walk around the zoo and answer questions about bears. After finding the correct answers, the winners receive a Bear Awareness patch.

Thanks to programs like this people have started getting involved and educated about bears and how important it is know about them. The OC Zoo hopes to continue programs like this to keep animals and people safe and know how to coexist together.

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