Bear Island

Carnivores, Uncategorized

Through the week of spring break Wildlife Safari has been offering $5 feed-me cups so guests can feed the bears! The bears love their new enrichment, it’s a fun interaction for them and they are always keen for snacks. It is also a wonderful way for visitors to connect with the animals, which is what we’re all about here at Safari!

Claire, our Alaskan Coastal brown bear foraging for snacks

Now before you worry about our bears’ waist-lines, you should know these snacks are a carefully considered part of their diet. We keep track of how many calories they are consuming every day so we can keep them nice and healthy!

To our Grizzly boys, snack time is the best time – Photo courtesy of Emilie Gupta

On days when they are not getting snack cups, keepers will go out at intervals through the day and throw snacks into their enclosure. This grazing through the day helps us to mimic the natural foraging behavior of wild bears, so we spread their snacks over their enclosure so they can sniff them out!

Russell, another Alaskan Coastal brown bear, takes a quick snooze

This experience is now available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 11am and 3pm. So if you haven’t met our bears, now is an excellent time!

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Rise and Shine!

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Uncategorized

Spring is here and the bears at Wildlife Safari have started venturing out and stretching their legs after a long four months of hibernation. Although still a little sleepy, the bears are looking happy and healthy, having lost a substantial amount of weight during their time of rest.

One of the black bears surrounded by snacks and enrichment

One of the black bears, Chochmo surrounded by snacks and enrichment – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

When the bears first get up, they ease into eating again, starting on small amounts of simple foods and slowly increasing as summer approaches.

The black bears typically hibernate for longer than the brown bears, but are also starting to emerge for the spring.

Grizzly brothers, Mak and Oso, enjoying the spring sunshine - photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Grizzly brothers, Mak and Oso, enjoying the spring sunshine – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Sunshine adventures

Little Boy on sunshine adventures – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

In the wild, spring is the time when cubs are around, emerging from their dens with their mothers for the first time. Bears will give birth while hibernating, with cubs nursing on their snoozing mother through the winter. By the time spring rolls around, cubs are big enough to explore and play while their mothers find food.

This may seem like a good way to raise small young, and it is not just good timing that allows them to give birth during hibernation. Bears can actually delay implantation of fertilized eggs to make sure their pregnancy goes through these resting months. “Delayed implantation is a really cool feature of the bear reproductive cycle,” says Melissa Fox, primary bear trainer at Wildlife Safari. “Bears will typically mate in late spring, but the fertilized egg won’t attach to the uterine wall until fall, and only if the female has gained enough weight to sustain her – typically around 150lbs.” If the female does not gain that weight, the pregnancy will be terminated. This pregnancy will only last 2 months, giving the little cubs time to grow before the end of the hibernation period. Cubs are born tiny and hairless, though they are much bigger and stronger when they leave the den. “They are born early so they can switch to mammary nourishment (milk) sooner,” explains Fox. “It’s more energy efficient.”

Takoda the black bear saying hello to his keepers

Little Girl, the black bear saying hello to her keepers – photo courtesy of Melissa Fox

As their primary, Fox spends a lot of time with both the brown and black bears. “I love how intelligent and playful they are,” she says. “It makes them so much fun to work with.”

Once they are awake and ready to eat, bears are mostly foragers – eating whatever is around. While they do eat meat, they won’t generally hunt, preferring to eat prey that another animal has caught, although they will also fish.

The black bears love their ponds

The black bears love their ponds – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Bears 2

Photo courtesy of Melissa Fox

Big Bear encounters have started, so if you haven’t met our brown bears, now is the perfect time to come and see them!

Arctic Adventure Camps

Community, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

At Wildlife Safari, we’re still excited about animals no matter the weather, and we know kids are too! We run camps for children between the ages of 4 and 12 several times a year, spring, summer and winter. This year’s winter camp is arctic themed! Kids at camp learned all about animals that live in cold environments, and how different animals act in the colder seasons.

They learned about narwhals and wales, and how animals keep warm, such as blubber or feathers. Snowy owls are also arctic dwelling animals, so campers discussed their adaptations, including fluffy feathers and coloration.

Aviary winter camp

Getting to know our birds in the aviary

“They had so much fun,”says Lead Educator Julianne Rose. “We had super inquisitive kids.”

Rose has been with Education at Safari for several years, and has seen many seasons of campers come through. “It reminds me how kids get excited about everything!” she says.”They’re so excited to be here and to be around animals. Its really enjoyable to see them making those nature connections and learning all about things they didn’t know before.”

Crafts on Arctic Adventure Camp

Crafts on Arctic Adventure Camp

 

Camp is a great way for the educators at the park to share their love of animals and conservation. It’s a unique way of showing the kids from a young age that the world around them is exciting and full of wonderful and weird animals. Rose thinks it is an important way to teach kids about animals and the environment. “Especially with younger ones, a lot of how they learn is hands on, active, and through play,” she says. “We can let them connect literally with the animals we have here at wildlife safari. The fact they get to be hands on with the animals, that really helps what we’re teaching them hit home. These are things that are going to stick with them.”

Campers also got up close to our sleepy, hibernating bears as they learned about animals that stay tucked in bed through the winter.

Kids on hibernating bear encounters for winter camp

Kids on hibernating bear encounters for winter camp

Most of the time when people think of cold weather animals they think of polar bears and penguins, but there are a number of other animals that live in the cold too! Some birds have specially adapted feathers to keep them warm in the colder months.

Of course, no camp is complete without some creative activities! “One of their favorite crafts, and mine as well, is turning their footprint into a narwhal,” says Rose. “There was much creative license, lots of crazy colors and designs!”

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Arctic Adventure winter camp crafts

Camps are held every season, with fun new themes each time. Kids of all ages can come and have fun, and learn while they do it. Now that’s vacation time well spent!