The bears are hibernating inside the Zoo right now, and one of them is experiencing a new resting spot. Bozeman the grizzly bear was moved to the former polar bear habitat in the summer of 2022. Before that he shared his space with Boris the brown bear, and before that he lived with his brothers and mom in the habitat near the caribou. While hibernation this year may not be any different for Bozeman, the keepers are going to have to learn to be extra quiet this winter. “The seals are active all year, and keepers working with them will need to adjust and stay quiet with Bozeman trying to hibernate on the other side of the wall,” says Dawn Fleuchaus, North America area supervisor. If bears wake up too often during hibernation time they can deplete their fat reserves too quickly and they will start looking for food earlier than usual.
Besides this adjustment for keepers, Bozeman is thriving in his new home. He didn’t miss a beat. As Fleuchaus says, “he really settled in pretty good. He’s very flexible and adaptable.” Fleuchaus says Bozeman didn’t show signs of stress after the move. He was, however, very intrigued by the smell of the polar bear that still lingered. “Even though it’s since rained about a thousand times, that smell is still out there. So he had his nose to the ground and went over every inch of this place,” says Fleuchaus. Zookeepers even used bleach to clean before he arrived, but he could still pick up the scent. That goes to show what a great sense of smell grizzly bears have. Before winter hit, two of his favorite spots in the habitat had been his hammock and the shallow part of the pool. But once it warms up, don’t expect to see him go for a deep dive or long swim. “They aren’t as big of swimmers as polar bears or even brown bears. Grizzlies go in lakes and rivers but rarely swim in deep water unless necessary,” explains Fleuchaus.
While Bozeman seems to be enjoying himself, many guests have asked why the Zoo hasn’t gotten another polar bear for that habitat. The answer is a sad truth about the status of that species. Many of the polar bears in human care are getting older and past breeding age. Plus, just because you put a male and a female bear together, it doesn’t mean they will successfully breed. It comes down to low breeding and more spaces for polar bears than there are animals to fill them. Getting a polar bear again is not out of the question, but it won’t be any time soon. Until then, Bozeman will enjoy his new home and we hope you enjoy watching this magnificent animal.