Vital Ground co-founders Doug and Lynne Seus are also the owners of Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife. The Seuses are renowned animal trainers, having adopted, trained and cared for animals of diverse species that were unable to live in the wild for varying reasons. Since the founding of Vital Ground in 1990, the four grizzly bears adopted by the Seuses have served as conservation ambassadors for the foundation.
Q: Why does the Seus family adopt grizzly bears?
A: The Seus family adopted Bart the Bear in 1977 as a cub born in a zoo. This began their legacy for adopting cubs born in captivity or rescuing cubs orphaned in the wild that had no realistic chance of survival.
Q: What type of conditions do the rescued bears live in?
A: The Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife facilities in Heber City, Utah, include large trees, a stream, a swimming hole, and a 74-acre exercise area for the bears to roam.
Q: Do the facilities undergo regular inspections?
A: Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife has been inspected and licensed by USDA APHIS since 1976. It has an outstanding 46-year record of compliance.
Q: Why are the bears not released back into the wild?
A: The Seuses believe every bear should be born and live free in the wild. Unfortunately, human persecution and encroachment into wildlife habitat continues to create circumstances where bears cannot thrive. The Seuses have adopted two orphaned cubs (Bart II and Honey Bump) whose mother was killed by hunters in Alaska while the cubs were still too young to survive independently. Bart the Bear and Tank were born in captivity, meaning their reliance on humans for food would not allow them to survive in the wild.
Q: How are the bears treated on set?
A: The bears love being cheered on and receiving public praise. On set, the crew is encouraged to reward the bears with words of encouragement and applause. They are never mistreated or abused to perform. Representatives from the American Humane Society and Motion Picture Animal Protection are also on any set involving the bears, no matter how small the production.
Q: Are the bears ever forced to perform?
A: No. The performances are based on positive reinforcement. If the animals choose to perform a behavior on set, their reward is a treat or back rub. Performance is play time for these animals and attention and praise from the crew is something they actively seek. The training methods and personal relationships between Doug Seus, the entire Seus family and their bears are legendary for the love shared across species lines.
Q: What are the Seuses doing to address problems grizzly bears face with lack of wild places to roam free?
A: Inspired by Bart, the Seus family founded The Vital Ground Foundation in 1990 with the mission to protect and restore North America’s grizzly bear populations for future generations by conserving wildlife habitat and by supporting programs that reduce conflicts between bears and humans. To date, Vital Ground, with the help of partners, has conserved and enhanced more than 683,000 acres of wildlife habitat through land purchases and voluntary conservation agreements.
Q: Why are Kodiak and Zac Efron partnering with Vital Ground?
A: Kodiak and Vital Ground have been stalwart business partners for several years, advancing numerous conservation initiatives through their joint efforts. All three partners believe the new collaboration with Zac Efron will yield great benefits for wildlife, including tangible, permanent protection of habitat in the precise locations that grizzlies in the Lower 48 states need to re-connect isolated populations and build resilience to continued human encroachment and habitat impacts stemming from climate change.