Even before their keepers enter the night house, the indoor enclosure where they sometimes sleep, Oakland Zoo brown bears Rubicon and Truckee know something is up. “They know we’re out here because they can smell us,” says Animal Care Keeper Erin Melroy. “They’re very smart, and they can pick up on the fact that ‘This is different, do I need to be worried?’”

Something is different: Today is the day Rubicon and Truckee will be vaccinated against COVID-19. The zoo is among the first of more than 70 animal organizations across the nation to administer donated vaccines from the animal health company Zoetis. The two-dose Zoetis vaccine, based on the COVID-19 spike protein, can be used across many species, from the zoo’s mountain lions and gibbons to its fruit bats and wolves. Rubicon and Truckee are part of a carefully planned vaccination effort that started on June 30 and will continue for the rest of the year, targeting the zoo’s most vulnerable animals.

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