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Florida black bear Cheyenne searches for sunflower seeds dispersed by a new environmental enrichment device.

Florida black bear Cheyenne searches for sunflower seeds dispersed by a new way of giving our bears enrichment: an environmental enrichment device.

Stop by our Florida black bear habitat on any given day, and you might spot rubber balls crammed with treats, honey spread on random objects and snacks hidden on the natural elements of their habitat. This enrichment encourages our bears, Brody and Cheyenne, to act on their natural behavior of foraging for their meal.

A new device will build on our animal care staff’s efforts and allow our bears to enjoy some extra enrichment with the opportunity to have some control over their environment as well.

Brody the Florida black bear checks out the new EED

Brody the Florida black bear checks out the new environmental enrichment device.

This Environmental Enrichment Device (EED) was custom-made for our bears by the nonprofit Animal Enrichment Systems. This EED sits just outside the bear habitat’s perimeter fencing and blows food into the space through a 12-foot-tall tube.

This treat scattering can be activated by keepers, set to automatically disperse at certain intervals or be triggered by the bears, said Don Lang, President of Animal Enrichment Systems. In this bear-driven mode, food is sent into their habitat any time Brody or Cheyenne walk near the device and activate its motion detector.

Florida black bear EED

The Florida black bear EED (environmental enrichment device).

The feeder can dispense everything from peanuts to sunflower seeds, making it easy for the animal care team to give Brody and Cheyenne a variety, Lang said. Depending on wind and the food’s weight, the Animal Enrichment Systems team found that the machine can blow food at least 30 feet away from it, giving our bears a wide area to forage.

We’re excited to continue giving our bears unique opportunities to express their natural behaviors. Cheyenne got a chance to experience the EED herself, and spent some time hunting for sunflower seeds recently.

Check out the new EED yourself at our Florida black bear habitat in our Wild Florida loop! You may see it in action!

Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.