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Polar Bear Cubs:
Frequently Asked Questions

(updated 5/24/13)

We’ve had a lot of inquiries about our polar bear cubs and we thought we'd try to address a few of them here.

Check back frequently as we will add the answers to the most frequently asked questions that we receive. Please post other questions to our Facebook page. Thank you for your interest.




photo by Kyle Shepherd



How exactly do you pronounce Qannik’s name?

As you know, Qannik was named after the ConocoPhilips oil field where she was found in Alaska. Qannik is pronounced “KUN’nik” according to Professor Lawrence Kaplan, a linguist at the University of Alaska and director of the University’s Alaska Native Language Center. Qannik means “snowflake” in the Iñupiaq language.

How much does Qannik weigh and what does she eat?

Qannik was 372 lbs. as of May 24, 2013. Since her arrival, she graduated from a diet of heavy whipping cream mixed with a puppy formula Esbilac, to herring, bananas and the infant formula Enfamil and olive oil, most of which which continues to eat with the addition of polar bear Kibble. When she was found abandoned in Alaska she was malnourished and weighed 15 lbs. She should have weighed twice that.

How big will Qannik get to be?

As an adult female polar bear Qannik will weigh between 330 and 650 lbs and grow to be between 6 and 9 feet tall.

Do the keepers get into the exhibit with Qannik?

The keepers do not go into the exhibit with Qannik. They interact and train through protected contact (through steel mesh) allowing safe interactions for the keepers and encouraging a professional zoo “caretaker/mom” relationship with this wild animal rather than the type of care you would provide a puppy. During her playtime she is closely monitored in her pool and play areas.

What does Qannik do all day?

Qannik spends most of her days either in Bear Alley or the Glacier exhibit. While in Bear Alley her keeper team employs an arsenal of ever-changing toys and enrichment items to keep her engaged and stimulated. Be it with a burlap covered boomer ball that acts as a seal, a bin full of ice or a rope to play tug o’ war with Qannik is moving non-stop. That is until she stops to nap inside the truck bed or her big tube (click here to see photo).  When she is in the Glacier exhibit, you are likely to see her diving from the center rock into the 80 gallon pool where she swims vigorously to the bottom to engage visitors looking through the viewing windows below. Then back up top for more diving and swimming.  She seems to enjoy sniffing the classroom window to see what the humans are doing, bolting to the bottom of the road to explore what is there and then bounding back up the road to her watery destination where she will likely dive like super girl with all four limbs spread out.  She also likes to hide her toys from the grizzlies who never dive deep enough to find them.

What does Qannik play with? What are some of her favorite toys?

She has a plethora of options to choose from: a burlap-covered boomer ball that acts as a seal, a white bucket that used to belong to “Aunt” Arki, the adult polar bear in Glacier Run, a log to practice her balancing skills, a plastic garbage can that she likes to get into, the garbage can’s lid that she tosses to and fro, dig pits, bins of ice, several small lifesaver-style toys. Her favorites change every so often, but high on the playlist is the bucket from “Aunt” Arki and the garbage can. She also does love a good session with her bin of ice. And then there’s the orange, green and blue balls she chases in the 80,000 gallon pool of Glacier Run. It doesn’t really matter what the toy, Qannik just loves to play and explore.

Will Qannik be on exhibit with Siku?

Currently, the bears can see, smell and hear each other in the off-exhibit bedrooms in Glacier Run. The plan is to eventually introduce Siku and Qannik into the same exhibit space, however it will not occur immediately due to the difference in their sizes.

When can we see Qannik?

Qannik is now in a rotation with the other bears of Glacier Run. To that end, she might be in Bear Alley or in the outdoor exhibit when you come to visit her. Let’s face it…she is fun no matter where she is. The wild offers variety for its inhabitants naturally and that is what we are trying to offer with Glacier Run. Variety for our bears. We have been successful in our rotation approach with our award-winning Gorilla Forest and Islands exhibits and this is the future of Zoo exhibits.



Two-year-old Siku on his first day in quarantine at the Louisville Zoo.

Photo by Kyle Shepherd


How exactly do you pronounce Siku’s name and what does it mean?

Siku is pronounced “SEE’-ku.” Siku means “ice” in the Iñupiaq language. Schoolchildren on Alaska’s North Slope selected his name.

How old is Siku and what does he eat?

Siku was born December 3, 2009 at the Toledo Zoo and he was nearly 2 years old when he arrived in Louisville. He has a diet that consists of herring, capelin and a Nebraska blend of meat.

How big will Siku get to be?

As an adult male polar bear Siku will weigh between 775 ─ 1,200 lbs and grow to be between 6.5 ─ 9 feet tall. Females are smaller between 6 ─ 9 feet tall and weighing 330 ─ 650 pounds on average.

Who and where are Siku’s parents?

Siku’s mother and father are Crystal and Marty, both residing at the Toledo Zoo. Arki, our former adult  female polar bear was Siku's grandmother. She gave birth to Siku's father's Marty.

When can we see Siku and where will he be on exhibit?

Siku is in full rotation with the other bears.  Like our award-winning ISLANDS exhibit, the rotation of animals on and off exhibit in Glacier Run is also designed to enhance their health and well-being by giving them constant enrichment opportunities and more choices for interacting with their environments.

General Bear Questions

Click here for the Zoo's Polar Bear Fact Sheet

What is quarantine and why did all the bears have to do it?

The 30 days is a typical quarantine period of isolation from other animals, restricted access to the public, and intense health and behavioral monitoring by keepers and veterinary staff. This practice is a basic component of preventive medicine programs in zoos and is a fundamental step in the prevention of the spread of disease into an existing animal collection. Quarantine also allows our cubs some time to adjust to all the changes in their lives. Qannik also needed to gain some more weight, build her immune system - acclimating to Louisville versus Alaska - learn critical skills like swimming, and start developing relationships with her new surrogate parents (keepers). Although Siku was born at Toledo Zoo, he is still a growing cub and also needs time to adjust to all the new elements of his home and get to know his new keepers.

How does the Zoo help the polar bears on really hot days?

Polar bears are adaptable. In the Alaskan and Canadian wild they can experience temperatures of up to 80 degrees. Polar bears also go through a “walking hibernation” state where they conserve their energy and reduce their internal heat production, thereby creating a cooling effect. Part of this “walking hibernation” state is a slowing of their metabolism and an overall conserving of energy.

Here in Louisville the polar bears have access to chilled pools with water chilled to 65 degrees. In addition, we provide ice blocks and bins of ice to play with and in. Off-exhibit bedroom are also temperature-controlled.

When are polar bear cubs no longer considered cubs?

Polar bear cubs stay with their mother until about age 2. Then they go it alone and at about age 3 they go through what could be considered their “teen years.” Between the time they leave their mother and they are mature enough to mate, they are called subadults.