Journal of Ethology

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 117–124 | Cite as

Consistent individual behavior: evidence of personality in black bears

  • Patrick J. Myers
  • Julie K. YoungEmail author


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.


Novel object Open field Repeatability Ursus americanus Captive Startle object Activity 



We wish to thank the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for allowing us to conduct this study and for their technical support. We thank S. Brummer, E. Stevenson, J. Schultz, N. Floyd, and M. Davis at the USDA NWRC Predator Research Facility for their assistance. Earlier drafts of this manuscript were reviewed by F. Howe, K. Jordan, and two anonymous reviewers. Funding was provided by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University, and the USDA National Wildlife Resource Center. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights statement

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Captive care and handling was administered through NWRC-SOP no. ACUT-006.00, with research permitted under NWRC Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) permit QA-2354 and Utah State University IACUC permit #2434. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildland ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.USDA National Wildlife Research Center, Predator Research Facility, Department of Wildland ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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