By Jeffrey Buck
The Detroit Zoo recently introduced the metro Detroit area to its three new grizzly bear cubs rescued from Alaska. While attending the media preview I had a chance to talk with Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Ron Kagan. He’s very excited about the new cubs and happy that they are adapting well to their new home.
Woodward Spine: Will they stay this active for a while?
Ron Kagan: They will stay active for quite a bit. Again at times animals will just rest but they are doing a lot of exploration right now and of course part of the issue is they have just come out of hibernation. So they are ready to get active again, explore and play. They play with each other, they are wonderfully social.
WS: With the increase in guests watching them will they be more playful?
RK: I don’t think so. Bears are very curious and they explore a lot. For instance if somebody walks by and has food with them that is very aromatic they will pick up the scent if the wind is blowing the right way and that will catch their attention. There will be things that people will do that might grab their attention but for the most part the bears will pay attention to each other, which is what should happen. I’m not expecting to see a lot of that kind of action.
WS: Will they be swimming a lot?
RG: Yes, they have already, in the brief time we brought them outside for the first time, jumped in quite a bit. They will probably swim a lot more if we put some trout in there, which we might very well do periodically.
WS: How big will they get and will they stay in this area for their entire life?
RK: It’s tough to know that far out but they will get to be about four times the size they are now. So they’re all about 200 pounds, a little over, right now. They’ve double actually since they got here. They could get to be about 800 pounds, so they will be big. We used to have polar bears here, grizzly bears so this is a well known habitat for large bears. It should be great.
Now would it be better if they were living in Alaska, absolutely. One of the challenges with things like this is early on their mother was bringing them into areas with people and so unfortunately what happens is they get sort of fearless and that’s the same reason the other two grizzly bears are here. They were categorized as “nuisance bears” by the Fish & Wildlife Service. They can be very dangerous around people.
WS: Will this be their final home? They won’t be released back into the wild?
RG: No, they are too comfortable around people. We didn’t do that. That happened in Alaska.
WS: Did Alaska contact you (Detroit Zoo)?
RG: Yes, we have a reputation for doing a lot of rescue work with circus bears and others from so many other situations. We did a big rescue a few years back in Texas with 27,000 small animals, nothing the size of these guys.