Studying the Social Behavior and Preferences of Polar Bears at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Student: Molly Seeberger
Mentor: Shala Hankison (OWU Department of Zoology)

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are relatively solitary animals unless it is breeding season. At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the polar bears participate in the Species Survival Plan where breeding for conservation efforts is encouraged. Lee, an 19-year-old male, came to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in the Fall of 2018 in hopes of breeding with 12-year-old twin females Aurora and Anana. Because Lee’s previous experience was only living with one female, I wanted to observe whether he would prefer a particular female because he now had two females to choose from. Not only did I look for preference, but I also observed and analyzed the social behaviors of all three polar bears. I hypothesized that Lee would show a preference for one female over the other, perhaps based on the female eostrus cycles, and would show differences in interaction behavior and location proximity. My hypothesis was supported in that Lee had a significantly higher amount of associations with Anana than he had with Aurora, and the bears showed differences in interaction behavior and location proximity. Lee and Anana spent most of their time resting in Region 1, while Aurora kept to herself mostly in Region 4. When Lee and Aurora did interact, most were interactions of aggression.

More information about this project in Digital Commons @ OWU

Contact Info


Merrick Hall
65 S. Sandusky St.
Delaware, OH 43015
P 740-368-3075

OWU Connection Programs
Merrick Hall