Meet Polar Bears Nora and Hope!

Posted on October 10, 2017 by Jay

October 9, 2017 (SALT LAKE CITY) – After much anticipation, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is pleased to introduce two year-old polar bears, Nora and Hope.
The two female bears arrived last month and have been spending time getting acquainted with their keepers, their new home and each other and now they’re ready to meet the community!

“Introductions have gone better than we could have expected,” said Rocky Shores keeper Joanne Randinitis. “We were concerned that Nora wouldn’t know how to react to another bear. But she’s done great.”

Nora was born at Columbus Zoo Nov. 6, 2015. Her mother began leaving her unattended in the den for prolonged periods of time. Keepers made the difficult decision to hand-rear the tiny cub.

She was sent to Oregon Zoo last September, in the hopes she might be mentored by their senior bear. “For a young bear that was hand-raised, the companionship of another bear is so important for developing social skills,” said Amy Cutting, who oversees Oregon Zoo’s marine life area. Sadly, Oregon Zoo lost their senior bear shortly after Nora arrived. Again, Nora was without bear companionship.

About seven weeks after Nora was born, she was diagnosed with metabolic bone disease which happens because of an imbalance of calcium, Vitamin D and other nutrients. Columbus Zoo staff immediately started supplementing her diet with calcium and Vitamin D. She responded well. However, metabolic bone disease may contribute to skeletal problems later in life. Nora currently has some joint disorders that are likely to develop into arthritis and she may appear to limp or ‘waddle.’ Veterinarians at Hogle Zoo have been in regular communication with both Columbus and Oregon Zoos to ensure that Nora receives the most effective treatment possible which will include lots of aqua therapy!

Nora enjoying her ‘test’ visitors while looking through the window at the seals and sea lions.

Hope, named after Point Hope, Alaska, as well as a nod to the optimism for the future of the endangered species, was born at Toledo Zoo on December 3, 2015. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended Hope’s transfer. The SSP prioritizes putting young animals together when they are mature enough to leave their mothers. In the wild, young bears separate from their mothers around age two and may band together to survive the harsh conditions in the Arctic.

The hope is that Hope will be a great mentor bear for Nora. They’re only one month apart in age and have the same youthful energy. And so far, it’s going smoothly.

Hope is almost 180 pounds heavier than Nora but that did not cause any problems during their first few encounters. Zoo animal care staff has been hard at work getting the bears comfortable in their new homes and with each other and they’ve both done a terrific job.

“Both bears are eating a lot and playing with their toys,” Randinitis said. “They’re both resting on opposite ends of the exhibit. They both initiate approaching each other and retreating so neither one is overpowering the other. It’s just been great.”

The polar bear is among Hogle Zoo’s Big 6 Conservation Species – six species receiving the focus of the Zoo’s conservation efforts. “As one of our signature programs we concentrate our financial and staffing resources to try to save this particular species,” said Liz Larsen. “Our leadership in the zoo community toward conservation has helped secure us as a flagship institution for such a high profile species as polar bears.”

Hogle Zoo has a long history of caring for polar bears – offering a home to the species from 1957 – 2003, during which time Hogle Zoo produced 10 offspring. The opening of Rocky Shores, in 2012, saw the much anticipated return of the polar bear after a nine year absence. Designed to be a long-term breeding and conservation facility Hogle Zoo hopes to contribute to the study and science of polar bears for years to come.

Hogle Zoo is leading the way with its work with Polar Bears International as an Arctic Ambassador Center (AAC); a collection of zoos, museums and aquariums that educate the public about climate change and provide leadership for carbon-emission reductions in our communities. Global warming is melting the Arctic sea ice polar bears call home, and with it, access to the food and shelter necessary for the species’ survival.

Hope exploring her new home.