The big word of the month should be procrastination since I’m a little late with this post! Instead I’m inspired to talk about the process of imprinting since Sherry alluded to it in her post about our new bear.
In animal species with extended parental care, offspring usually learn to recognize their parents very soon after birth (the process sometimes begins even before birth). This process, called imprinting, varies from species to species but usually includes learning a combination of sight, smell and sound associated with the parents. Experiments conducted in the earlier 20th century with birds demonstrated that newly hatched chicks often imprinted on whatever object they first encountered in the nest, regardless of its similarity to a parent. The following short video by aYouTube contributor juancarlosboada summarizes the work done by Konrad Lorenz on the subject of imprinting. In 1973, he shared a Nobel Prize with two other researchers for their work on animal behavior.
So what does all this have to do with Yona the new bear at the museum? In her post, Sherry mentioned that Yona was more interested in her human caretakers than other bears. Given her small size when she was rescued, she has likely partially imprinted on her human caregiver and therefore is not a good candidate for release into the wild. A full grown black bear that has no fear of humans and might even be attracted to them would likely end up having dangerous interactions with humans in the future.