Management implications for releasing orphaned, captive-reared bears back to the wild

  • Published source details Beecham J.J., De Gabriel Hernando M., Karamanlidis A.A., Beausoleil R.A., Burguess K., Jeong D., Binks M., Bereczky L., Ashraf N.V.K., Skripova K., Rhodin L., Auger J. & Lee B. (2015) Management implications for releasing orphaned, captive-reared bears back to the wild. Journal of Wildlife Management, 79, 1327-1336.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Hand-rear orphaned or abandoned young in captivity

Action Link
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation
  1. Hand-rear orphaned or abandoned young in captivity

    A replicated study in 1991–2012 of 12 programs in the USA, Canada, Romania, Greece, South Korea and India (Beecham et al. 2015) found that following release, approximately half of orphaned and captive-reared American black bears Ursus americanus, Asiatic black bears Ursus thibetanus and brown bears Ursus arctos survived over one year. Of 141 known mortalities, 54% occurred during the first year after release when bears were 1 to 2‐years old and at least two bears lived for more than 10 years in the wild. Average annual survival rates for released captive-reared bears were 73% for American black bear, 75% for brown bear and 87% for Asiatic black bear. A minority of all American (6.1%) and Asiatic black bears (9.7%) released demonstrated persistent problem behaviours and required removal, but none were reported for brown bears. Captive-reared females from all species reproduced in the wild. Orphaned American black bears were released in the USA and Canada (424 individuals, 7 programs), Asian black bears released in India and South Korea (62 individuals, 2 programs) and brown bears were released in Romania, Canada and Greece (64 individuals, 3 programs). Cubs were <1 year old when taken into captivity and were kept for 2–14 months. All bears were released (aged 11-23 months) in areas with suitable habitat. Bears were ear‐tagged and/or equipped with telemetry collars. Collared bears were monitored until the collar dropped or malfunctioned. Overall, 30% of bears were not observed after release and so are not included in survival estimates.

    (Summarised by: Ricardo Rocha)

Output references
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 20

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered speciesVincet Wildlife Trust