The Denver Zoo opened a new bear exhibit called Harmony Hill Park on May 15th.The new bear enclosure is split into two parts. One side is state park themed showing visitors how to camp responsibly and avoid contact with bears.The other side shows what to do if you live in a bear area and how to keep them from coming in your yard. Harmony Hill replaced the old bear enclosure which was built in 1918. The space was considered progressive in 1918, but the modern Denver Zoo did not feel it best suited the bears needs now. The old Bear Mountain was too small, and used pools instead of running water, and bears are not used to pools.
The two bears at the Denver Zoo are named Tundra, a female, and Kootenai, a male. Each bear has their own emotional story. Kootenai was walking across the street in Montana when his brother was killed by a car. Kootenai’s mom ran off leaving him alone, and he was eventually found by park rangers and sent to the Denver Zoo as a six month old cub. Tundra was in Alaska as a young cub being taught by her mother how to scavenge through trash cans in local towns. Sadly Tundra’s mother had to be euthanized because she was considered a threat and her three cubs were sent to Zoos across the US. Tundra’s two brothers were sent to South Carolina while Tundra was sent to the Denver zoo at six months old.
The bears are now both 17 years old and Tundra weighs about 358 pounds during the winter while Kootenai is at a towering 900 pounds during the winter months. The Bears are fed a diet including fish, berries and vegetables. While hibernation is not enforced at the Zoo, meaning the bears don’t have to hibernate, Tundra once slept for almost 19 days straight. The keepers train the bears in a public observing area known as the training gate. The keepers use hand signals and noises to tell the bears what to do. They also do this to look at the bears’ paws and teeth.
Everyone at the Zoo hopes you will visit Harmony Hills the next time you visit. Just be aware that the exhibit is very popular so be prepared for crowds.