What would you do if you returned from a hike to find two grizzly bears exploring your campsite? At the Zoo, we want to help you ensure that never happens; our exhibit signage and education programs focus on the importance of safe, bear-proof camping.But let’s face it, wouldn’t it be fun to watch two grizzly bears explore someone ELSE’S campsite? A recent after-hours program encouraged participants to help set up a campsite in the bears’ exhibit using items generously donated by Bookman’s Sports Exchange. Guests then seasoned the area liberally with irresistible bear treats like lettuce, hot dogs, and even a little strawberry jam. After all humans safely exited the exhibit, Zoo Keepers let bears Ronan and Finley out into the yard to have some fun! The grizzlies made short work of the tent and clothesline, tipped over the grill, and generally wreaked havoc on the scene. They spent extra time investigating shoes and boots, and scavenged every last toasted marshmallow. It was great fun to watch…from a safe distance!
Taking advantage of unattended snacks is not new for the Zoo’s bears, Ronan and Finley. They were born in the wild, but were designated “problem bears” after repeatedly returning to populated areas where food and garbage were improperly secured. Reid Park Zoo worked with US Fish and Wildlife to provide the bears a new home so they would not have to be destroyed. Not only did coming to the Zoo save their lives, but now Ronan and Finley help us start conversations with guests about their role in reducing human-bear conflict in the wild.
Keep an eye out for future programs like this one, and remember to protect your own campsite by keeping any food or scented objects in a bear-proof container, or hung high in a tree. When you’re in bear habitat, it pays to be bear-aware!