Zoo Buddy: Black Bear!

Meet Oscar! He's a black bear at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe.
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 8:17 AM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Meet Oscar! He’s a North American black bear at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo.

“He is actually almost completely blind and so our bear just feels and smells his way around everything so that’s really cool if you think about that,” says carnivore zookeeper Maria Foster. “These bears are super smart naturally and they are going to be about five to six feet long and about 200 - 600 pounds and that sounds really big but that’s actually the smallest bear in North America.”

“Oscar is very food motivated and his favorite foods are grapes and walnuts,” says Lisa Taylor, General Curator at the zoo. “Bears in the wild, typically in the fall - Louisiana black bears, in particular - like to eat a lot of nuts and berries in the fall to build up their fat content to survive the winter.”

Foster says a lot of carnivores at the zoo love different senses, so they’ll use perfumes and vanilla as enrichment.

“Their sense of smell is so strong that it’s kind of hard to measure, but they do think that they have some of the best noses so supposedly they can smell a food source within a mile or two away,” explains Foster.

And Oscar loves getting his food delivered in picnic baskets sitting at his picnic table in the back of his exhibit.

“I want everyone to know that we do monitor his behavior very closely, he has no interest in eating these picnic baskets, obviously we do not give him any picnic baskets with screws or bolts...like I said he just likes to eat out of his picnic basket,” explains Foster.

“Hunters it’s this time of year when people are deer hunting, bears as Maria said have an excellent nose, so they’re going to hit your deer feeders if you don’t have them protected, they want to find the easiest source of food,” says Taylor. “And you know bears were almost worked to extinction here in Louisiana and through wildlife and fisheries efforts they are off the endangered species list as of 2016.”

Taylor says if you see them in the wild just leave them alone. She says they’re great for the environment, especially when it comes to seed dispersal.

“Despite the name the black bear, they have a bunch of different colors, so they can be grey to like blue-grey, they can be brown or cinnamon, white and of course black,” says Foster. “So actually the most common color for a ‘black bear’ is actually brown.”

All of the animals at the zoo have wishlists where you can donate fun items for Christmas on the Zoological Society’s Facebook page.

Jungle Bells is also coming up, it’s a free day at the zoo courtesy of Jeff Guerriero. It’s December 17th from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Admission is free, but train and boat rides will cost $3. They’ll have food and shopping vendors set up, animal encounters, a bike giveaway, and of course Santa!

The zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can find Oscar in the Louisiana Purchase Exhibit.

If you’d like to learn more about the black bear, click here.