U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Journal of Ethology (2018) 36:117–124


© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US



Personality is defined as consistency in individual differences in organismal behavior across time or context, a phenomenon of interest within behavioral and evolutionary ecology. Empirical data have revealed an ever-increasing number and diversity of taxa that display these phenotypic patterns in both wild and captive settings. Moreover, these behavioral traits are frequently linked to wild behavior, life history strategies, and measures of individual fitness. Understanding personality is of particular importance for some animals, such as large carnivores, which may express maladaptive behavior that can lead to conflict with humans. To date, few studies of personality exist on large carnivores and none have investigated the presence of personality in black bears (Ursus americanus). Through focal animal sampling, and open field, novel object, and startle object tests, we investigate the potential for personality in captive black bear cubs. Results indicate the presence of personality, with consistency in behavior across five metrics for the bold-shy axis, and eight sampling events measuring responses for the activity axis. Information presented here reveals the presence of personality in black bear cubs, and may provide a framework for future investigations into relationships of personality with ecology and life history.

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