Black Bears Take Residence at the Minnesota Zoo
By Joel Schettler
Rainy and cool weather notwithstanding, Minnesota Zoo members turned out in mid-September for an after-hours event to gain a sneak preview of the zoo’s newest exhibit.
The exhibit, located along the Medtronic Minnesota Trail, features three young bears who were orphaned near Leech Lake when they were cubs. Tiva and Syke, the males, and Kuruk are now approximately two-and-a-half years old. The new habitat is partly due to support from the Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the Minnesota Zoo Foundation, and it looks great. Much like the Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit, the enclosure’s design includes features that make it more like natural habitat than what one might associate with a zoo: a pool for bathing, trees to climb, a cave for napping (which also includes a large window for an up-close view), and even hot rocks for bears to lounge upon during cold weather.
During my visit, I even learned a few facts about bears, including that black bear populations in America are fairly healthy. According to zoo information, there are twice as many black bears as all other bear species combined. Of course, black bears in Minnesota are normally associated with northern areas, including the Boundary Waters. I also learned that black bears will roam great distances in the fall to gather food to increase fat reserves for the winter.
These bears were definitely on the move, making it hard to get a sharp photo. Dozens of visitors, each with camera in hand, gathered near the window to capture an image as one of the young bears passed back and forth just behind the glass. I overheard one zoo official in charge of caring for the bears tell a patron that the bear liked interacting with people, and the pacing was just a sign that he was excited. The bears make a great addition to the zoo, which continues to grow and change nearly every year. If you haven't been in some time, I'd encourage you to visit soon.