New WSU study has bears run on treadmills to learn about eating, exercise habits

PULLMAN, Wash. — Do you hate running on a treadmill at the gym? Imagine if you were a 600-pound bear.

WSU’s Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center set out in a new study to find out how grizzly bears spend and conserve their energy while searching for food.

As part of the study, scientists put a treadmill in a clear, sealed enclosure built with steel frames. They then taught nine bears to walk both uphill and downhill on the treadmill.

To get the bears on the treadmill, the scientists had to get creative. Over a period of 2 months, they coaxed the bears into the enclosure using apple slices and pieces of hot dog, according to an article from Science Mag.

The researchers then measured the amount of oxygen the bears used and could estimate the calories they consumed, Science Mag reported.

From there, researchers compared that data with tracking data from bears wearing GPS collars near Yellowstone National Park.

The study found that bears, like people, try to conserve energy and often take the easier path while searching for food, favoring flat ground and gentle slopes.

The New York Times reported that the findings also helps explain why humans and bears often intersect while outside. People, like bears, tend to be physically lazy, accumulating research suggests.

Read more about the study here.