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Denver Zoo learned from experts at Cincinnati Zoo that Elvis, the polar-bear-pregnancy predicting beagle does not believe Cranbeary the polar bear is pregnant. (Say that three times real fast.)
"All of us at Denver Zoo were hoping that Cranbeary was indeed pregnant. She is such a beautiful sweet bear and she and her mate Lee were getting along very well. However, according to Elvis the beagle, it's unlikely she's pregnant," says Curator of Carnivores & Primates Beth Jo Schoeberl.
Although disappointed in the news, Denver Zoo has much to celebrate as Cranbeary turns 12 this week! The zoo will celebrate with feedings and keeper chats daily at 11:45 a.m. on Nov. 22, 23 and 24. During this time, visitors can get HALF OFF ADMISSION for bringing a new toy for the 16 Ways Foundation Toy Drive, supporting at-risk youth, through a partnership with 7News. The Foundation is a non-profit supported by Denver Bronco Wesley Woodyard. A new toy per individual is required to receive this discount. The Toy Drive discount will be offered Nov. 22 through Dec. 9, the opening weekend of Zoo Lights and also can be used for half off Zoo Lights admission.
Denver Zoo was one of numerous zoos participating in a study at Cincinnati Zoo's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW). In collaboration with professional dog trainer, Matt Skogen, owner of Iron Heart High Performance Working Dogs and a beagle named Elvis, CREW is trying to determine if the sensitive noses of canines can distinguish a pregnant polar bear from a non-pregnant bear simply by smelling fecal samples. Elvis has been 97 percent effective at predicting polar bear pregnancies in the past. As part of the official study, on October 28, Elvis was presented with 34 samples, two samples from each of the 17 polar bears that mated this past spring and zoos were recently informed on Elvis's reaction to their samples.
Video of Elvis training can be seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xkwwGxX1mw
Worldwide, traditional methods of pregnancy detection, such as progesterone monitoring and ultrasound examination, are not effective at diagnosing pregnancy in polar bears. Pregnant bears that enter dens in the wild are generally undisturbed and do not eat, drink, or defecate for months. In contrast, non-pregnant bears do not spend the winter in dens. Zoos do their best to mimic wild conditions most appropriate for their bears so an accurate pregnancy test would be very helpful in guiding the management strategy throughout the winter season. Pregnant bears could be properly isolated with minimal disruption while being closely monitored by camera in anticipation of a birth, whereas non-pregnant females would be allowed to enjoy the cool winter season outdoors.
Cranbeary serves as an ambassador for her wild cousins, helping raise awareness for the plight of polar bears in the wild. Denver Zoo, an Arctic Ambassador Center with PBI, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear, supports polar bear conservation through education. Polar bears have been listed as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act. The number of polar bears in the wild is expected to decline primarily due to starvation and decreased reproduction from loss of sea ice due to climate change.