two bears touching each others noses


An animal-friendly home


The BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach offers brown bears from bad keeping conditions an animal-friendly home since 1998. At present, four brown bears live on a total of 14,000 square meters.

The BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach is a project of the animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS. Here bears, who could be freed from dreary conditions (circus, cage fighting, ...), find a new home in natural surroundings.


FOUR PAWS strives to offer the best possible quality of life and care for all bears we look after in our sanctuaries. This includes but is not limited to the following criteria:

  1. Outdoor enclosures with natural vegetation and structures
  2. We let our bears choose
  3. Natural diet and enriching feeding methods
  4. Professional care
  5. No breeding
  6. Medical Care
  7. Acclimatization & Socialization
  8. Use of enrichment
  9. Individual daily and seasonal patterns
  10. Lifelong home

Our standards of Bear Care

The reintroduction of captive bears into the wild is not an option: simply because they do not have the skills that are necessary for “living on its own”, but also because they are used to getting food from humans. Due to their past poor living conditions they have developed stereotypic behavior.

The BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach offers a solution for stranded bears. Here they can learn to develop natural behavior and live according to their instincts.

Natural Habitat

The size and structure of our sanctuaries offer space and opportunities for natural living. The spacious enclosures allow them to wander freely as well as to withdraw from other bears and human visitors. There are hibernation caves, ponds and natural forest with open space. Ponds are big and deep enough for the bears to fully immerse themselves, bathe and play – bears adore water! – which also supports their grooming activities. The daily care includes a broad variety of food combined with toys, which activates foraging behavior and keeps the animals busy.

Bear Tom enjoying a cool bath

The bears can choose

One of the main principles of all the FOUR PAWS bear projects is not to put the animals on display. The contact with humans is reduced to a minimum, to empower the bear to live according to his individual daily routine. Visitors have opportunity to get an insight into this daily routine but at any time the animals are allowed to withdraw.

Our interactions with the bears are strictly limited to care and trust-building activities and do not include feeding demonstrations, the feeding of bears by visitors or any direct contact between bears and humans. Our focus lies on providing conditions that allow the bears to express species-specific behaviour in their interactions with each other and with their environment.

Natural wild feeding

Similar to wildlife-bears our individuals are busy through the whole day with foraging. The animal keepers hide each single food item somewhere in the enclosure. Additionally we are developing and constructing new ways to encourage the bears in exploring their environment.

Bear Emma reaching for food in a tree

Professional Care

Experienced animal keepers and wildlife veterinarians work together to manage the health and individual needs of the bears. A daily record is kept of food, behavior and health situations.  FOUR PAWS cooperates with scientists, who support the rescue centers.


With the transfer of bears, the former owners have to agree they will not have anymore bears. In all our bear projects breeding is avoided and all male bears are vasectomized.

Bear Care and Enrichment

Bears are born with specific instincts and need certain things from their environment. In captivity it is hard to meet these high demands. The BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach offers a surrounding which encourages natural behavior. Specific enrichment measures are implemented to reduce stereotypic behavior.

Medical Care

When the BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach takes over, the animals are checked by a veterinarian. Since breeding is not an option of an animal rescue center all male bears are vasectomized.


After transport and vet-check the bear is observed in a small enclosure, so that they can get used to the new surrounding. When the bear has settled the gates to the other sectors are opened so that a larger area can be used. If mutual interest is observed, the animal can be socialized with other bears. 

Bears Emma and Erich being playful

Meeting others

Although wild bears are mostly loners, we sometimes socialize them with already settled bears. The contact with others can help to decrease the stereotypic behavior patterns that most of the bears have developed over years in captivity.


Most of our rescued bears are displaying stereotypic behavior patterns. Therefore we offer environmental and behavioral enrichment of a very high standard. The daily diet is not only spread over a wide area, but also put in developed enrichment items to keep the bears busy. These enrichment methods are used to stimulate species-specific behaviour (e.g. digging and climbing) and help the bears to gain self-confidence in their skills (e.g. by retrieving a delicious snack hidden inside an object) and develop trust in the environment they live in.

Bear Brumca searching for nuts in an enrichment object

Natural Patterns

An important criteria is to empower the animals to develop individual daily and seasonal patterns. E.g. all bears have opportunity to hibernate either in natural dens or in artificial caves.

A lifelong home

Whenever FOUR PAWS decides to give a home to a bear in one of our sanctuaries, we commit to providing this animal with shelter and high-quality care for the rest of its life.

Senior bear Tom in the snow

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