Mamma Moose & Jack

One of the emerging disciplines in veterinary science and medicine is the study of the human-animal bond. As defined on the website of Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, “The Human-Animal Bond is the dynamic relationship between people and animals in that each influences the psychological and physiological state of the other.”  A field that was once centered on the human-companion animal interface, has grown to include production animals and captive wildlife. 

While pursuing a dual doctoral degree (DVM/PhD) at The Ohio State University I was invited to write a brief desciption of my laboratory’s research programs for the Newsletter of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians

As if I didn’t have enough to keep me busy, I started to research the human-animal bond.  At the time there was a paucity of information available on the human-wildlife relations, aside from a few anecdotal resources. As mentioned, traditional studies have explored the relationships between pets and their owners.   I relied on my experiences as a zoo animal keeper and work on cattle ranches for insight into human relations with domestic livestock and “special species.”  I should mention that the human-animal bond is now addressed in the context of the coexistence  of human and free-ranging wildlife as a conservation management tool. 

Today, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes the significance of the human-animal bond and its benefits to people, pets, farm animals, and wildlife and has  instituted policies relevant to such issues.

Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

One case that merits attention is our three year old moose bull, Jack. A popular animal ambassador– Jack has developed a particular rapport with intern Vanessa Gibson, a zoology major at Michigan State University.

Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Jack was brought to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center as an orphan. He had a fractured, right, front leg and a bite wound on his right hip.  Given a 20% chance of survival, Jack was nurtured back to health by Vanessa. She tended to him day and night for three months living in a tent within his enclosure.

Below is a link to a film of Jack and Vanessa shot by Dr. Vic Van Ballenberghe, a noted Research Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service in Alaska.

Continuing their very special relationship, Vanessa has returned for another summer. Although some have surmised that Jack would not remember her, by looking at the pictures below you wouldn’t suspect that for a second.

Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Jack & Vanessa, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center


Meet the Author
With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition he was an ex officio member of council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management. Contact Email: