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Lake Access in the Winter Months

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The Polar Bear Habitat is proud to be the only facility in the world to offer naturally forming ice to polar bears in a sub arctic climate.  The aptly named Lake Enclosure is 13 acres in total, comprising of 8 acres of natural, thermal spring fed lake surrounded by boreal forest.  However, many of our live camera fans may notice the bears don’t always have access to the lake.

In the wild, polar bear cubs stay with their mother for roughly two and half years. In this time, she would teach the cubs how to hunt and move safely on and off ice flows in the ocean.  Since our bears were not raised in the wild, they didn’t get the benefit of such an experienced teacher, but what’s also different at the habitat is ice on our lake covers the entire surface, rather than leaving open areas like the ocean has.  Due to this major difference, specific protocols have been developed to ensure the safety of our bears at all times, such as restricting access when a storm is coming, monitoring wind speed, continually training the bears to respond to callback commands, and ensuring the ice is at least 8” thick to hold the weight of our big boys. As the ice begins to form, a minimum percentage of open water must be present.  As the bears gain more experience on the ice, we may adjust their ice access, once we see they’ve learned the skills needed to remain safe.

With this years’ early freeze up, the animal care staff will be testing the ice thickness in preparation for our bears’ winter access to the lake enclosure in the coming weeks.  Once the minimum thickness is reached, the bears will once again be able to explore and enjoy this unique environment.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page to find out when it will be this season!

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