Improved habitats unveiled at zoo

By Morgyn Cooper -

The new black bear habitat.

The new black bear habitat.

Courtesy photo | Columbus Zoo

After being behind-the-scenes for a few months, certain animals in the North America region at the Columbus Zoo in Powell have been moving into their new and improved habitats this week.

The North America Renovation Project was made possible by a cultural facilities grant appropriation provided by the state of Ohio through the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, zoo officials said. The project broke ground in March.

“The North America region was the zoo’s original region and, having undergone only minor adjustments since its establishment in 1984, its age was beginning to show,” said Tom Stalf, president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo. “With the state’s support, we were able to revitalize this important piece of Columbus Zoo history.”

The project included improvements to the cougar, otter and bobcat habitats. It also provided for a black bear habitat, which allowed the Columbus Zoo to house this species for the first time since 2012.

Overall, the renovations included expanding habitats, improving guest visibility, providing easier access for keepers conducting routine medical procedures, and introducing more enrichment devices to encourage their natural behavior. Those devices include a wobble pole, climbing platform, and canoe for the bears, and hammocks for all the animals moving into new spaces. Guests will have access to play with similar enrichment pieces located along the public pathways.

“North America is one of my favorite regions at the zoo because it showcases the amazing creatures living right here on this continent,” Stalf said. “What better way to instill the values of personal responsibility, when it comes to conservation, than by coming face to face with an animal that shares your habitat.”

This region is home to many rescued orphans, including the bobcats, bears and cougars. The newest orphan arrivals at North America are the bear cubs Joanie and Stevie, who were rescued last winter when they were both about one year old.

Joanie, who has a black coat, arrived on Feb. 29 from Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Stevie, who has a cinnamon-colored coat, arrived March 3 from Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Joanie earned her name when her unusually spikey fur reminded Columbus Zoo keepers of the rock star queen Joan Jett. The second cub appeared to have “nicks” on her ears caused by frostbite so, in continuing the rock ’n’ roll theme, keepers named her after Stevie Nicks.

The dynamic duo made their first, unofficial debut late last month, as one of the cubs breached the enclosure. No animals or visitors were harmed, and adjustments were made to the habitat.

The new black bear habitat. new black bear habitat. Courtesy photo | Columbus Zoo

By Morgyn Cooper

Information for this story was provided by the Columbus Zoo.

Information for this story was provided by the Columbus Zoo.