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A Project of Woodland Park Zoo's Living Northwest

Wild Wise: Coexisting with Carnivores, a partnership between Woodland Park Zoo, Western Wildlife Outreach and Issaquah Middle School Life Sciences, offers middle school students a chance to develop science inquiry skills as they engage in investigations about carnivores in their community and how people can coexist safely with them.

The Coexisting with Carnivores program engages students in community-based scientific investigations, beginning with a carnivores program at Woodland Park Zoo and culminating in a community event at which students present the results of their investigations.

Program Elements

Pacific Northwest Carnivore Program at Woodland Park Zoo

The zoo-based element of the program starts with an overview of carnivore taxonomy and current research on carnivores in Washington, presented by Western Wildlife Outreach. After the presentation, Woodland Park Zoo staff lead a guided program highlighting Pacific Northwest carnivores, such as the gray wolves and grizzly bears in the Northern Trail exhibit. The program ends with a brief animal behavior investigation led by Issaquah Middle School teachers.

Wild Wise Program and Expert Speaker Presentation

A zoo naturalist leads students in an interactive multimedia presentation. Students learn about the characteristics of the zone where wildlife habitat and human development overlap in the Cascade foothills as well as the research methods used by local scientists. A local wildlife biologist also discusses their own carnivore research projects, sharing with students the scientific process followed to answer their research questions.

Developing Questions for Investigation

Under the guidance of zoo naturalists, each class of students develops their own research question to help address the issues concerning carnivores and peaceful coexistence with people. Each research question contributes findings to help answer overarching questions about urgent human-carnivore interaction issues facing their communities.

Investigation Methods

Zoo naturalists work with each class of students to familiarize them with data collection tools and techniques that can be used to answer their research questions, such as mapping available data, interviewing community members, remote camera trapping and web-based surveys.

Data Collection, Analyzing Data and Drawing Conclusions

Under the guidance of their science teachers and using equipment on loan from the zoo, students collect data to answer their research questions. Students analyze and discuss their data, and interpret the results and draw conclusions. Based on their findings, students identify the most important messages and actions they want to communicate to their communities to foster peaceful coexistence between humans and large carnivores.

Community Evening Event

Each class of students shares what they learned with other classes and with their community through presentations at an evening community gathering to increase awareness about carnivores in the region and strategies for peaceful coexistence.


Bear Affair: Pacific Northwest Conservation Event

Each student receives four zoo passes and information about the zoo’s Bear Affair: Pacific Northwest Conservation event, held every year in early June, to encourage them to attend with their families and friends.

Learn More About Bear Affair!


Student Evaluations Show Transformation in Knowledge and Attitude

Before and after taking the program, students were asked “What are some things I can do to reduce my chances of having problems with large carnivores, such as bears and cougars?”

Evaluations of the 2012-2013 Coexisting with Carnivores program outcomes show that the students’ awareness of ways to prevent conflict with carnivores changed significantly over the course of their participation. See how their answers transformed from passive to active, from avoidance to coexistence:



I would run as fast as I can.

Bring the trash bin out on the right day.

Not walking or going around where they most likely are. Have bear safe trash cans.

Throwing dangerous objects at them to keep them away.  Have your dumpster fenced in, and closed.

Not go close and try to touch them.

Don’t put your garbage out until the morning of trash pick-up.

Don’t throw rocks or things at them.

Don’t have smelling food where there are carnivores.

Avoid looking for them.

Hang bird feeders up in the winter.

Stay out of the woods.

Don’t have dog food outside of the house.

Not live by the woods.

Get a bear safe garbage can.

Live in a place where there aren’t many animals.

Don’t leave food or garbage outside.

Don’t go in woods.

Travel on trails during daylight.

Don’t run from them.

You can keep your house area clean.

The actions in the right-hand column are things we can all do to share our habitat with native carnivores in our state!


Thanks to Our Supporters

The Wild Wise: Coexisting With Carnivores program, presented by Carter Subaru, has been supported by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund and the Horizons Foundation, and is offered in partnership with Western Wildlife Outreach and Issaquah Middle School Life Sciences.