College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Toys stimulate and feed WSU bears

Traffic cones, rubber tractor tires, old fire hoses and PVC pipes. All of these, it turns out, are great places to hide tomatoes, apples and oranges from bears.

Bears search for snacks placed in enrichment toys, made by Bear Center staff and volunteers.
Bears search for snacks placed in enrichment toys, made by Bear Center staff and volunteers.

And they’re all used as part of the Washington State University Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center’s growing environmental enrichment program.

“Various enrichment items provide different forms of mental stimulation for our bears,” said Dr. Monica Bando, manager of the Bear Center. “The goal is to promote natural behaviors, such as foraging. The challenge for us is developing a variety of enrichment items to stimulate different senses.”

Bears have access to an outdoor enclosure almost every day, but Bando wants to keep the bears mentally spry even when they aren’t in the yard.

Bando said she would love to see a new purpose-built bear center so all of the bears could enjoy enclosure access every day. Until then, it is imperative to continue providing and developing the environmental enrichment efforts to ensure the mental well-being of our bears.

“The various enrichment items challenge them in different ways,” Bando said. “Some are puzzle feeders, where they have to figure out how to get to the food. Some items are toys they can play with that also allow us to put smears, sauces, or different food items at different heights or in different locations. The aim is to provide novelty, so each day presents something different, whether it be different enrichment items or different tastes, smells and textures.”

Volunteers and staff at the WSU Bear Center put fruit and fish sauce on the enrichment toys, including a tire hammock the bears love to lay on.
Volunteers and staff at the WSU Bear Center put fruit and fish sauce on the enrichment toys, including a tire hammock the bears love to lay on.

Bando and Bear Center staffers and volunteers make most of the items used to keep the bears attentive. They have occasional “toy making” times, when they get together to bolt fire hoses onto a tractor tire or create novel items from cut tires, hanging each half from ends of a PVC pipe.

“We try to get creative,” Bando said. “It takes a lot of time and our volunteers are invaluable. They’re passionate and really care about helping keep the bears entertained and happy.”

The items are rotated every day or two, so the bears don’t get bored with the same toys or challenges. Bando, other staffers, and volunteers clean the pens, then set up the new items each day. They really like to see how each bear reacts to new things.

“You just never know what will be a big hit,” Bando said. “The tire hammocks are proving to be very popular. They are not easy to make, each one takes around six to eight hours to complete, but our volunteers agree it is well worth the effort when you observe our bears curled up, sleeping on them. And with our puzzle feeders, if there is food in it, our bears will enjoy it.”

Bears at the WSU Bear Center find fruit hidden inside tubes constructed to challenge them, instead of just giving them the food.
Bears at the WSU Bear Center find fruit hidden inside tubes constructed to challenge them, instead of just giving them the food.

One item the bears all enjoy but repels pretty much every human in the area is a thick fish sauce. The smell is…strong.

“We just paint the fish sauce on any surface and they love it,” Bando said. “The cubs just want to roll around in it. We think it’s pretty smelly, but they can’t seem to get enough, so we use it liberally.”

There’s no set time for when the items are rotated, but Bando and others often answer questions from visitors while they’re setting up enrichment.

“We like letting people know more about our bears,” she said. “Teaching people about these amazing animals is one more reason why we do what we do.”

Learn more about WSU Bear Center research at

CAHNRS is more than agriculture. With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, we are one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU. CAHNRS Cougs are making a difference in the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities, improving ecological and economic systems, and advancing agricultural sciences.

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With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, CAHNRS is one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU.


CAHNRS students are awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships annually.


CAHNRS leads in discovery through its high-quality research programs. In 2014, CAHNRS received research funding exceeding $81.5M. This accounts for nearly 40% of all research funding received by WSU.  


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Check out what our academic departments and programs have to offer, from Interior Design to Agriculture to Wildlife Ecology. We have 13 departments and schools to prepare you for your chosen career.

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Students have a variety of options to pursue masters and doctoral degrees. Many of these have very specific background requirements, so we suggest exploring the individual programs for academic guidelines.

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Inspiring Teamwork - Arron Carter pic

Inspiring Teamwork – Arron Carter

It started with a car, a ’69 Corvette Stingray to be exact.

When Arron Carter, the director of the Washington State University Winter Wheat Breeding Program, was in high school his agricultural teacher had a ’69 Corvette Stingray. Every year this teacher would let his favorite senior take the car to senior prom. Carter had never taken an agriculture class before, but he knew he wanted to drive that car.

“Well, if I’m going to be the favorite senior,” Carter said to himself, “I’d better start taking some ag classes.”…

Read More: Inspiring Teamwork – Arron Carter


CAHNRS Office of Research

Agricultural Research Center

Mission Statement

The goal of the Washington State University CAHNRS Office of Research is to promote research beneficial to the citizens of Washington. The Office of Research recognizes its unique land-grant research mission to the people of Washington and their increasing global connections. The CAHNRS Office of Research provides leadership in discovering and applying knowledge through high-quality research that contributes to a safe and abundant food, fiber, and energy supply while enhancing the sustainability of agricultural and natural resource systems.

Research Update

Washington State University’s screening continues to find no evidence of glyphosate herbicide resistance in Pacific Northwest wheat varieties

In each of the last three years (2014, 2015 and 2016), the field screening process has involved over 80 varieties, 2,000 advanced breeding lines and more than 35,000 individual plots from WSU cereal breeding and variety evaluation programs. Collectively, varieties included in these trials represent over 95 percent of the wheat acreage planted in Washington.

Featured Research

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Newly emerged viruses threaten the U.S. potato industry, including potatoes grown in Washington. Several newly evolved strains of the disease known as potato virus Y, or PVY, can render potatoes unmarketable and reduce crop yield. What’s worse is the new viruses are particularly difficult to detect with the naked eye.

Horned larks undeterred by efforts to protect canola seedlings

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Workshops to discuss changing water forecast for Columbia Basin

How changing water availability in the Columbia River Basin could affect people, farms and fish is the focus of a series of free public workshops in June. Scheduled for June 21, 22 and 23 in Richland, Wenatchee and Spokane, the workshops give a first look at the 2016 Columbia River Basin Long-Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast.

After landslide, communities rewarded for resilience

Two years after the deadly landslide that devastated the Oso, Wash., area, the towns of Darrington and Arlington were announced April 27 as finalists in the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition.

$11M funds food safety tech transfer to markets

WSU aims to meet growing demand for safe, high quality, additive-free packaged foods thanks to two recent investments in innovative food processing technology based on microwave energy.

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Welcome to alumni, friends, and supporters of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). You are a core part of our CAHNRS Coug family and have made major impacts in our college, communities, and throughout the world. We recognize only a handful of them here.

More than 9,000 alumni and friends contributed to our Campaign for WSU, the most ambitious fundraising effort in university history. The campaign concluded in 2015 with $215 million and endless amounts of impact. Here is a glimpse of what transpired in the Campaign.

Although the campaign concluded, momentum continues to make a difference in our land-grant mission and education. On-going investment in time and resources from our alumni and friends helps to advance our best programs, attract the most talented faculty, and support our brightest students.

There are so many ways to stay involved with CAHNRS. Share your news in the college’s magazine ReConnect. Get involved with student success or support our college as whole by making a gift to the CAHNRS Excellence Fund.


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How many varieties of wheat has WSU developed?



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