You may have heard that we’re building a home for rescued bears, but do you know what to expect? This is the first time we’ve had these animals, so we’ve incorporated lots of research—based on bears in both human care and their natural range—into our design to ensure that the bear habitat will be comfortable and engaging for its inhabitants.
When the space opens, our current female Florida black bear will be its sole resident. It was designed, however, to house between three and four bears, which is something you may see in the coming years.
The habitat, which will be located in Wild Florida just past the otters, will feature over 5,000 square feet of room for the animals to roam, play, sleep, bathe and more. The space will include two pools—black bears have an affinity for swimming—as well as three holding areas.
A shaded canopy structure will mimic the cover that bears would receive in their natural forest habitat and a spacious floor-to-ceiling glass viewing area will give you the best seat in the house.
A night house will provide a space for the animals to check in with keepers, be switched in or out of the habitat or simply to rest.
Enrichment opportunities will include a pulley system, allowing guests to load and wheel out snacks to the bears (under keeper supervision, of course), and rock walls with food-filled PVC tubes hidden inside.
The habitat will also feature blackberry bushes, which will give bears the opportunity to forage for food. Automatic feeders located throughout the space will also encourage this behavior.
After speaking to experts at other institutions, we will be creating a “wobble tree,” or a tall structure that holds snacks at the top, which encourages bears to practice their natural behavior of shaking vegetation to get their food.
Some large oak logs and stumps are being repurposed from construction projects elsewhere in the Zoo and incorporated into the bear habitat for play space.
This is not an extensive list of all the features of the bear exhibit, but just some that you can look forward to seeing when it opens in the upcoming months. It is important to note that as we continue learning, enrichment is constantly evolving here at the Zoo, so something that you see during one visit may not be the same the next.
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