TOLEDO — Hundreds of visitors crowded around the glass at the Toledo Zoo’s new bear exhibit, which opened earlier this month.
The Komminsk Family Kodiak Ridge exhibit is home to two grizzly bears and one Kodiak bear. The exhibit, which debuted March 16, also features 14,000 square feet of space, a 5,000-gallon pool, a 130-square-foot cave and a sensory log.
“The log is hollowed out, so you and the bear can both go into it and feel each other’s breath,” said Nancy Nielsen, a donor to the new exhibit. “It’s very exciting and I have a feeling that it is going to be a pretty popular part of the exhibit.”
Two of the bears in the exhibit were rescued from Yellowstone National Park and the third was rescued from Kodiak Island. All three represent the challenges wildlife face in sharing a world with humans.
“We took on these bears back in 2015. They were orphaned bears and needed a home,” said Michael Frushour, curator of mammals for Toledo Zoo.
Once the zoo took the bears in, it was evident that the zoo’s previous space needed to be renovated into a much larger area. The bears are now 8 years old, compared to when they first arrived.
“(Toledo Zoo) has been talking about designing the exhibit for five years, but construction wise, we’ve been under construction for about two years,” Frushour said. “We didn’t want the bears to get bored, so we wanted to have adequate space.”
Some visitors said that they have been anticipating the opening of the exhibit since discussion about the project first began.
“I had been waiting for (the Toledo Zoo) to open the exhibit,” said Francine Clouse, a zoo member. “I told myself, ‘I am going to be here because I definitely want to see the bears,’ and it’s worth it and beautiful.”
The two grizzly bears, Montana and Cody, are both females. Dodge, a Kodiak bear, is the only male bear.
Cody weighs in at 575 pounds compared with Montana, who weighs 615 pounds. However, Dodge, the largest bear of them all, weighs in at over 1,100 pounds.
Despite Dodge’s large size, his exhibit-mates keep him in check.
“The girls keep him in line, they really don’t let him get over playful when he’s trying to wrestle and roughhouse with them,” Frushour said. “He is significantly bigger than them, so that is something we wanted to make sure we monitored.”
Dodge grew up on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and had more access to food and resources compared to the grizzly bears he now shares a home with. Despite his bigger size, there’s no issue with adapting to living with smaller bears and the new exhibit.
“He’s a very gentle bear and he plays very well with the females. The zoo really enjoys the dynamic of having both subspecies on display,” Frushour said.
While the new exhibit is much larger than the previous one, it could not have been created without the support of donors.
“The exhibit was funded all by donations that the zoo was able to procure from talking with many of our wonderful donors here in Toledo and throughout the country,” Frushour said.
Both donors and visitors said they have already experienced their favorite aspect of the new addition.
“Being able to stand right there in front of the glass and have the bears walk past on the other side, and experience how big they are and how beautiful they are, it’s awesome,” Clouse said.
For more information about the new Kodiak exhibit, visit http://toledozoo.org/.
(Kish is a Bowling Green State University student.)