The Bear Habitat at Glacier Run provides a state-of-the art home for both polar bears and grizzly bears. The two species will be on exhibit separately. For example, at any point during the day, polar bears might be in the main habitat called the Glacier exhibit, while grizzles explore the loading dock area, called Bear Alley, and go through their training and enrichment sessions on the other side of town – and vice versa.
The 80,000 gallon fresh water pool has both a shallow area where the bears can play, and a deeper area where they can enjoy a good swim. Multiple viewing windows including one that is 22’ tall provide visitors with breathtaking views of the bears both on land and in the water.
Digging pits offer enrichment for the bears as they search for hidden items that just might include tasty treats.
Visitors might also catch a view of the bears climbing up and down craggy cliffs to investigate the bottom of the exhibit area (or get back to the top). These are really “bear stairs” designed to facilitate the bear’s movements but built to look like rugged, rocky terrain.
The Town of Glacier Run
Designed as a former gold mining town on the edge of the arctic wilderness, Glacier Run is based on the notion that humankind and nature must find ways to co-exist.
Visitors strolling down the main street of town will have many opportunities to immerse themselves in the experiences of life on the tundra and learn about conservation. Zoo guests are encouraged to stop and talk with the keepers who care for the amazing animals in Glacier Run and to enjoy one or more of the exciting and educational training demonstrations presented each day.
In addition to many viewing portals into the animal habitats, the town of Glacier Run also includes:
Polar Bear Crossing (Bear Walk)
Bears move from one side of the exhibit to the other across an overhead transfer chute designed to look like a mine track. For visitors this close proximity to the bears will help create the sense of being temporarily immersed in this unusual town.
Bear Alley (loading dock)
A truck has pulled up to the loading dock of the general store in town. Guests can sit in the truck cab while bears rummage around in the bed of the truck, separated by a glass barrier of course. Items that appear at first glance to be trash on the loading docks are actually enrichment items for the bears.
The School House
The Old School House in Glacier Run has a multitude of uses. During the day students will utilize the facility for hands-on, minds-on interactive learning experiences. A look outside the nose-to-nose with polar bears, and arctic themed curriculum will help them understand the impact that global climate change is having on our planet. In the evenings the school can be rented for after hours events and meetings – or used for Zoo overnights.
Why Polar AND Grizzly Bears?
Having these two bear species in the exhibit helps us tell an important story about the effect of changes in our environment. Due to global climate change and the early thawing of polar ice, some polar bears are being forced to migrate inland. This means their range now crosses over with certain brown bear species. In fact, in 2007 there was a confirmed discovery of a hybrid polar bear, brown bear and some of the latest scientific studies now show that polar bears may very well be a subspecies of brown bear.